Typically associated with seedstock cattle evaluation, genetic profiling for specific production traits may have future applications within the stocker segment, according to Justin Rhinehart, beef cattle specialist for MississippiStateUniversity. “A few of the most common performance goals for stocker operators revolve around average daily gain, health and carcass quality,” says Rhinehart, who believes that the technologies may have several potential uses in stocker cattle production. Currently, it is primarily seedstock producers, and a smaller number of commercial cattle producers, who are utilizing DNA-based technologies to aid in selection decisions. A stocker operator may benefit from sourcing cattle from one of these operations and be able to use the information to better sort calves into marketing or management groups.

Rhinehart says that as the technology continues to expand and become more widely available, he views obtaining information on individual calves (versus dam and sire information) as a more valuable opportunity. If the technology proves to be cost-effective, Rhinehart believes that stocker operators may be able to sort cattle based on their individual performance potential as determined through the DNA-based technologies. “A sorting or marketing plan should be developed that will capture full benefit of the tool,” Rhinehart says. “For example, sorting the group according to feed efficiency predictions could allow for tailored supplementation.

“Regardless of whether stocker operators choose to incorporate DNA-based technologies to reach their production goals, a working knowledge of the basic principles will be important as it becomes more widely used in other sectors of the industry,” Rhinehart adds.

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You can also read a related article in the upcoming May issue of Drovers that discusses current applications of marker-assisted selection technologies in the beef industry.