Producers should diversify herd genetics to adapt to market trends

Producers looking to make changes and improvements to their herds may be considering incorporating new genetics into their operation. Introducing different genetics is an excellent way to vary an operation’s gene pool. 

“The cattle industry is constantly changing, so it is always good to keep up with what’s going on and being able to diversify, so you can adapt to what the cattle markets are looking for,” Jenna Monnig, Field Specialist in Livestock at the University of Missouri Extension, said. 

Set Goals First

Before instituting new genetics, experts recommend setting goals for the herd first. The goals will help guide what genetics need to be incorporated into the herd. A good first step is for producers to think about how they plan to market their calves. 

“Always keep a balance with the genetics, but focus on where you think you want your calves to go,” Monnig added.

For example, producers who plan to sell all their calves at weaning, may want to seek out traits that will help their calves grow and increase weaning weights. Producers who plan to retain their calves all the way up to slaughter may want to look at carcass traits because of where they market their product. Seedstock producers may search for a different set of genetics, such as calving ease and docility. 

Utilizing EPDs

Livestock experts suggest utilizing EPDs to assist in goal planning and genetic selection. 

“We have come so far with EPDs,” Monnig said. “We can pick and choose the sires very easily and focus on what type of traits we want our calf crop to have.” 

In addition, every EPD should be published with an accuracy. This gives producers the ability to evaluate how accurate the traits should be when they get their calf crop. The accuracy rating on AI sires that get used thousands of times a year should have very high accuracy ratings. 

Choosing New Genetics from the Dam, Sire or Both

When goal planning for herd improvement, producers may wonder if they should add new genetics from the dam, sire or both? Livestock specialists state the answer to that question depends on how drastic of a change a producer wants to make. 

Typically, producers start by adding new genetics on the sire side. 

“They both contribute 50/50 genetics to the calf obviously, but overall, the sire is going to have the greater impact because he is going to influence all his offspring,” Monnig explained. The momma cow produces just one calf a year, so she will not make as much of an overall difference compared to the sire. 

However, introducing new genetics through replacement females also makes an impact on herd improvement. A producer may decide to keep replacements from the calf crop sired by a new bull or AI, or to buy replacements to introduce completely new genetics into the herd. 

Whatever decisions producers make about genetics for their herds, they should keep their end goals in mind. 

“Focus on what you want your calf crop to be and keep those marketing goals in mind when choosing your genetics in general,” Monnig shared. 


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