DNA testing is quickly becoming the norm 

The livestock industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and it continues to progress.

One of the ways the cattle industry is progressing is through DNA testing.

How are DNA tests conducted?

“Pulling samples is a relatively simple procedure,” Andy McCorkill, field specialist in livestock with the University of Missouri Extension. “You can take blood samples, tail hair or most recently, a Tissue Sampling Unit or TSU which takes ‘hole punch’ out of the ear with an ear tag like device that can even insert an identification tag in the same procedure.

“Most folks can manage to pull the sample on their own without the aid of a vet, but most vets are more than happy to assist if you don’t feel comfortable with doing it on your own. Once you’ve taken samples and got the forms taken care of, you are ready to send your samples off for analysis. The results will generally take four to six weeks to come back so it is important to build that time into your plan if you are planning on using the information as an added selling point.”

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,” according to Eric A. DeVuyst, associate professor, farm and ranch management specialist with Oklahoma State University.

“Genetic markers have been identified that affect most of these traits.”

How can producers use DNA test information for herd management?

Some large benefits are more live calves and fewer deaths of heifers by using calving-ease genetics, to start.

“I encourage folks to use the information as a tool in breeding and culling decisions,” McCorkill said. “What genomic information can do is help you find those animals that aren’t going to perform before you have to find out the hard way. Of course, if the results come out favorably, it can add a good degree of value to the animals you sell If your cattle shine in a particular area, use it to your benefit and sell it help sell your cattle. There is certainly a market for high-quality cattle and we are continuously searching out those cattle that hit the mark; genomic information is simply a tool that helps us find hit that target.”


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