The beef industry is evolving, and so are beef cattle. This is the time of year when producers buy bulls, and every bull that is turned out to cows contributes to the evolving beef industry.
Why do beef cattle evolve? The process is long, but continuous, just like herd selection. Selection, in the short term, ends with the purchase of a bull. In reality, the newly purchased bull will add genes to the breed and ultimately make a genetic contribution within the herd and very likely within the breed as a whole.
Genes do not stay put. As replacement cattle are moved around in the industry, their genes move, too. Cattle house their genes on 60 chromosomes. These 60 chromosomes carry the genetic materials that make cattle what they are. If one might be allowed to expand one's thinking, ironically, some types of buffalo, as well as goats and some other types of four-legged, grass-eating ruminants, also have 60 chromosomes.
The chromosome number is not unique, and what makes a chromosome certainly is not unique. In fact, although very few four-legged, grass-eating ruminants interbreed, some do. That would be the reason cattle may have some genes that came from buffalo and buffalo may have some genes that came from domestic cattle.
I am not trying to make the case for crossing cattle and buffalo. I'm only trying to expand our thinking as we view the concept of genes within living things, which, in this case, are cattle. If breeding cattle are maintained in the same herd or even in proximity, genes will migrate.
In previous times, the biggest inhibitors of roaming genes were physical barriers, which primarily were water and mountains or other obstacles that simply did not allow exposure to take place within breeding populations.
However, as times changed and people brought their animals out of isolation, gene migration certainly became possible.
Although behavior and anatomical barriers between various types of similar four- legged, grass- eating ruminants still restricted gene migration, with newer reproductive techniques, such as artificial insemination, genes continue to migrate.
The purpose of this discussion simply is to provide a broader picture of how genes can move and perhaps extend a better understanding as to what evaluating DNA means. DNA codes are in genes and genes determine the herd. Producers select for genes. Selected genes pull with them the appropriate DNA, and cattle evolve as products of the selected DNA.
For producers, no one ever questions that if cattle and buffalo are crossed, the obvious sharing of DNA is very evident. As bull producers, those same principles make up the genetic trend within a breed. The genetic trend lines are very revealing. If one made no effort at individual selection, the genetic trends of the breed still would be evident within a producer's herd.