DNA testing gives cattle producers more information than standard EPDs
Many producers in the Ozarks area raise and market registered, purebred cattle breeds.
From Angus to Herefords to Dexters and many more, purebred cattle can be found tucked away in the many hills and hollers this area has to offer. With a growing interest in genetics and planning for the future of many breeds, producers are beginning to turn to DNA testing to benefit their seedstock herds.
Genetics is a very complex subject, but Eric A. DeVuyst, associate professor/farm and ranch management specialist with the Oklahoma State University said they are an important tool.
“Along with management and environment, genes determine the biology of an animal. Genes also determine, in part, the economics of animal agriculture,” he said. “There are two general types of characteristics to be considered. A qualitative trait describes a trait that is either present or not. For example, a beef animal is either polled or not. So polled is called a qualitative trait. Similarly hide color in Angus cattle is a qualitative trait. A red beef animal carries two copies of the recessive red gene where a black-hided beef animal carries at most one copy. In general, management and environment do not affect qualitative traits. Other characteristics are quantitative. They vary in a continuum from one animal to another. Traits such as marbling, tenderness, weight, and fat cover are quantitative traits and are affected by genetics, management and environment. These traits are typically influenced by numerous genes and this where gene testing comes in.”
Genetic testing is helping to improve breeding programs through the Show-Me Select Heifer Program.
“Bulls used in the heifer program will carry DNA-tested EPDs (expected progeny differences),” said Jared Decker, University of Missouri Extension geneticist. He explained that DNA tests add reliability to EPDs for selecting herd bulls.
“DNA tests give results similar to 28 calving-ease production records,” Decker said. “More data boost confidence in a sire.” Samples for a DNA test can include bloodwork, tissue samples or hair root bulbs.
What types of traits should producers look for in DNA tests?
“Current market conditions reward cow-calf producers for high weaning weights and black-hide color, stockers for feed efficiency and average daily gain, and feedlot operators for feed efficiency, rate of gain, lean weight, marbling and ribeye area.
“Markers have been identified that affect most of these traits,” DeVuyst said.. While DNA testing is still a somewhat new idea in the registered cattle industry, beginning to integrate testing could pay off well for producers soon.
“Some seedstock producers are using genetic test results as part of their marketing information at annual sales, but no studies have evaluated the market impact of using genetic information to supplement EPDs,” DeVuyst said. “If vertically integrated market channels develop for tenderness and other consumer-desired attributes in the near future, seed stock producers may want to select for these markers in their herds now. So, when the channels are developed, they are in position to provide their customers – cow-calf producers – with these genetics.”