Breeding beef cows back after a tough winter

hereford cow and calf

Buckeye Beef Brief: Thinner cows also produce calves with lower weaning weights.

Jun 10, 2019

By Dean Kreager

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Take a different path. There was a real shortage of high-quality — or even medium-quality — hay made last year.

Related: Avoid a breeding objective wreck: Use indices correctly

Forage analysis results that I reviewed last fall were all lower quality than expected. As a result, many cow herds were much thinner at the beginning of the spring calving season this year. The problem with having thin cows at calving time is that they are likely to be even thinner at breeding time.

When a cow eats, her use of nutrients is prioritized. First is maintenance for survival. This is followed by lactation and growth, which includes weight gain; and finally, reproduction.

Related: Breeding soundness exams: Do ’em!

While reproduction is the No. 1 priority trait for profitability, it is not at the top of the list when the body of the cow is deciding how to use its nutrient resources.

Years of research have established that thin cows are often difficult to get bred. Results often show around a 30% decrease in the number of cows displaying estrus by 60 days post-calving on a cow with a body condition score at calving of 4, vs 6.

Similar results are seen when comparing pregnancy rates within a 90-day window of calving. These thinner cows also produce calves with lower weaning weights.

Early weaning

Early weaning has often been suggested during drought years, but it can also have a place when managing thin cows. The energy required for lactation is high enough to keep many cows in a negative energy balance while nursing a calf.

Removing the calf from the cow will stop lactation and allow the cow to begin to use energy toward reproduction. Weaning times of 45 to 60 days allow cows to begin a positive energy balance and start cycling earlier.

If you are past the time where a 45- to 60-day weaning is possible, consider weaning calves at 3 to 5 months of age instead of 7 months. While you will not get the immediate reproductive benefits, this still provides the cows with an extra opportunity to gain a body condition score point or two so they will be better prepared for next winter.

A 5 to 7 body condition score at the beginning of the calving season will increase the likelihood of the cow cycling early and getting pregnant early in her next season. Having a calf early in the breeding season is one of the most important determinants of profitability.

Extra management, resources and facilities are needed when early-weaning calves, but there are also some benefits in addition to the improved reproductive performance of the dams. Early-weaned calves can be very efficient at growing. Their feed conversion can be in the neighborhood of 1 pound of gain from 5 pounds of feed.

This efficiency is a big part of why young calves are worth more per pound. Early-weaning calves started on a good nutrition and health program can provide increased value when they are sold.

The importance of pregnancy checking is even higher in herds with thin cows that may remain in anestrus for extended periods. Lack of signs of estrus is no guarantee that a cow was pregnant when the bull was removed.

Pregnancy checking

If the bull remained with the cows for extended periods, do you know when the breeding occurred? The cost of pregnancy-checking 20 cows is likely less than the cost of feeding one open cow through the winter.

There are three commonly used methods for pregnancy-checking cows —rectal palpation, ultrasonography and blood testing. While the first two depend on the skill of the technician, all three are highly accurate.

Ultrasonography and blood testing can be performed around 28 days, while rectal palpation is usually done after 35 days. There are advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Ultrasonography and rectal palpation typically require a farm visit from a veterinarian, but these methods are capable of staging the age of the fetus. Blood testing is inexpensive and can be completed by most producers, but it does not provide the age of the fetus.

Finding the open cows, or the ones that did not breed back within the desired calving season, will allow you to remove them from your herd early to conserve feed resources for the rest of the herd.

Maybe this is the year to look at a different management approach. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

Kreager is the agriculture and natural resources educator in the Ohio State University Extension office in Licking County, and a member of the OSU Extension Beef Team. The Beef Team publishes the weekly Ohio Beef Cattle letter, which can be received via email or found at beef.osu.edu.

Artificial insemination and sexed semen: are you ready?

Cow-calf pairs

Artificial insemination is a genetic management opportunity that many cow-calf operations have avoided. With the commercial availability of sexed semen, maybe that’s about to change.

I am attending the Beef Improvement Federation symposium this week in Brookings, S.D. and it is living up to the high expectations that attendees and presenters have set. In fact, it is from this group of forward thinkers and innovators that much if not all the genetic tools we have available to us originated.

BEEF has been a BIF sponsor for many years and I’ve enjoyed being part of the group. If you want your mind stretched in ways you didn’t think it could stretch and some of your paradigms challenged, the BIF meeting is for you. Come prepared to think.

Among the many thought-provoking sessions was a look at sexed semen. Our dairy cousins have been using this technology for a while now and it is poised to make inroads in the beef business.

READ: Is sexed semen the next reproductive standard?

It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but the technology has some intriguing aspects. The advantages of sexed semen are that you can tailor your calf crop to your marketing needs.

If you’re a terminal producer, you can artificially inseminate (AI) your heifers for more bull calves. If you have a maternal herd, you can AI for more heifers. If you’re a seedstock producer, you can AI for more bull calves to develop into herd bulls.

Early on in the efforts to commercialize sexed semen, conception rates were a real issue. That has largely been eliminated, the experts say, with conception rates now closing in on what you can expect from conventional AI.

READ: How artificial insemination adds value to the cow herd

Beyond that, the disadvantages are that AI has some management limitations, especially in commercial herds. And sexed semen seems to work better in heifers than in mature cows. A lot of that has to do with managing fixed-time or split-time AI on cows with a calf at side.

AI and other reproductive technologies are well established in the seedstock business and sexed semen makes sense there. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but AI use by commercial beef producers isn’t very high. Will the prospect of being able to better optimize profit potential by skewing the sex of your calf crop encourage more commercial beef producers to adopt AI?

I don’t know, but I’m skeptical. On operations that run a sizeable number of cows, especially in drier regions where stocking rates are less and pastures are big, AI is a major management undertaking. But some operations are doing it successfully with their heifers and thereby shortening the genetic interval substantially.

READ: Consider the real economics of advanced breeding systems

The beef business is changing and many of the legacy paradigms we hold so dear may have to innovate or die. I’m no happier about that prospect than you are, but the advancing march of technology is undeniable. Looking at new and emerging technologies like sexed semen as an opportunity is the only mindset that a beef producer can adopt and expect to remain successful and sustainable, in my opinion.

So maybe, now that sexed semen is a commercial reality, more cow-calf producers will look at it as a management and marketing opportunity rather than a management headache. Time and market drivers will tell.

How to hire the right replacement heifers for your job

Replacement heifer

Heifer development hinges on intentional planning. Here are some timely tips on how to hire the right replacement heifers.

Sep 19, 2019

A replacement heifer represents the costliest improvement in the genetics of a herd. Some of the more important influencers that are critical to the success of retaining these genetics over time include hiring the right female, reaching a target breeding weight, proper development, and a defined breeding season.

As we know, reproductive traits are very lowly heritable; 10% controlled by genetics and the other 90% controlled by management and environment. This forces us to be intentional managers within the environment we live. Being better managers naturally forces us to use more data to make decisions that can improve fertility responses from good nutritional management.

Related: Pregnancy check replacement heifers to protect investment

The goal in developing replacement heifers is reaching puberty by the beginning of the breeding season. Puberty in heifers is controlled by three factors—body weight, age and breed.

With breed, we know that on average Bos taurus cattle reach puberty between 12 to 14 months of age; whereas Bos indicus cattle reach puberty later at approximately 16 to 18 months of age.

Related: Weighing the costs of buying or raising replacement heifers

Heifer body weight has a very influential impact on age at puberty. Research conducted in the 1980s reported that heifers weighing approximately 60-65% of their mature body weight reached puberty prior to breeding.

Hire the right female

Not every heifer will make a good replacement heifer. The female you want to hire conceives early in the breeding season. However, to get there we need to make some decisions earlier on in the hiring process.

You need a pool of candidates to start with based on your job description. The job description will lay out minimum requirements the heifer has to have in order to go through the development process.

These requirements should include, at minimum, no freemartins, minimum body weight, minimum age, structural soundness and not out of terminal sires. Throughout the development process, checkpoints need to be in place to monitor the heifers’ performance of your heifers.

And finally, after the breeding season, is she pregnant and preferably early on in the breeding season? Then, and only then, should we hire her for the job!

Target breeding weight

To properly develop heifers to 60-65% of mature body weight, you need to know the mature body weight of your cows, otherwise it is just a guess. If you don’t know what your cows weigh, you don’t know what 65% of mature weight is and what those heifers should weigh at breeding.

At minimum, know what the average weight of your cow herd is so you can determine what her expected mature body weight is. If you have the capabilities to determine this individually, then you can avoid breeding heifers that are too light or too big. The implications of developing heifers too light is not reaching puberty. Developing heifers that are too heavy (or too fat) is a reduction in fertility rates and increased development cost.

Proper development

Proper development starts with knowing how much she weighs, how much she needs to weigh, how many days you have to get her there and what her nutrient requirements are. Then, you can determine what her average daily gain needs to be and monitor progress to make sure she is on track for breeding.

Typical forage-based development diets for heifers consist of 9% crude protein and 60% total digestible nutrients to achieve a steady rate of gain of 1.5 pounds per head per day. Some programs develop heifers at different rates of gain at different stages of development. Overall, results seem to be similar, regardless of the development stages, as long as she reaches her target breeding weight and is on a positive nutrition plan throughout the development period.

Drastic changes in diets prior to the breeding season can cause wrecks sometimes. Some work out of South Dakota showed significant decreases in pregnancy rates in replacement heifers that were turned out on grass pasture from a dry lot in late spring at the beginning of the breeding season. To avoid this, make sure heifers are on the same forage system (diet) at least 30 days prior to the breeding season.

Define your breeding season

Without a defined breeding season, we can’t manage for fertility. Work out of Clay Center, Neb., in the 2000s reported a higher retention rate across nine calving seasons in replacement heifers conceiving in the first 21 days of their first breeding season compared to heifers conceiving after day 42 of the breeding season.

Preliminary data out of Louisiana State University reported similar results where 28% more heifers conceived to timed-AI during their first breeding season and developed to more than 65% of mature body weight remained in the herd through their fifth calving season, compared to heifers bred by natural service within a 75-day breeding season. In that study, heifers that reached more than 65% of mature body weight at breeding were out of smaller cows, and as a result had a lighter target mature body weight.

The perfect development protocol is one that results in heifers reaching the target age, weighs 60 to 65% of mature body weight, has reached puberty, conceives within the first 21 days of the breeding season and does not require taking out a loan to develop her. Nutrition is critical to ensuring heifers reach puberty by the start of the breeding season. Intentional management plays a major role in achieving high fertility rates during the breeding season at a manageable cost.

Walker is Noble Research Institute livestock consultant. Contact him at rswalker@noble.org.

5 tips to make good cows and a profitable herd

Looking to secure more profit? Look at improving your cows

Cow longevity is more dependent on fertility than anything else.

Burke Teichert | Nov 07, 2019

Last month I wrote that good cow herds start with good heifers—those that breed early in the breeding season with low inputs and can result in a profitable cow herd. We should let nature and the bull do most of this selection.

With a group of early bred, pregnant yearling heifers, we may want to make sure their nutritional needs (especially protein) are met at the tougher times of the year. If they get pregnant again as two-year-olds to calve early as three-year-olds, they most likely will become very fertile herd cows with good longevity. Remember, longevity is more dependent on fertility than anything else

Related: Are your replacement heifers reaching their profit potential?

There are exceptions. Occasionally, I visit with ranchers who get good conception rates with yearling and two-year-old heifers but get low conception rates with three-year-olds and even older cows. My observation suggests that it is the result of “over-development” of yearling and two-year-old heifers and then expecting them to function well on minimal inputs as mature cows.

In my speaking opportunities, ranchers often tell me that they are struggling to get conception rates in the 80s (percent pregnant) when it used to be easy to have them in the 90s. As I ask questions, the answers almost always suggest the problems to be bigger cows, higher milk production and less heterosis than in past times of good fertility.

Related: Want a profitable cow? It starts with a good heifer

Their culling practices seem to be removing the right cows: opens, dries, those which need attention, those with poor calves and the ones with poor dispositions. This makes me think that they must be using bulls that are “undoing” what they are trying to accomplish with their culling practices.

5 key cow selection practices

There are a number of things we need to remember:

  1. Most genetic change—good or bad—comes from the bulls. And, good maternal bulls come from good cows bred to good maternal bulls. Nature is trying to tell us which ones are the good ones. Are we listening (observing and counting)? We must select exceptional cows to be the mothers of bulls.

    For most of my management career, I considered myself a commercial producer with one significant difference—we produced our own bulls. We had several large herds with one designated as a seedstock herd. Every female born on the ranch was considered a possible seedstock cow until she proved she should not be.

    To get to the seedstock herd, she had to raise two good calves and be bred early to have her third calf as a four-year-old cow. She also never could have been handled for any purpose except routine immunizations. That meant no assisted births, no doctoring, etc. Our commercial bulls were selected from those cows. We bought and used semen from bulls whose closely related females were the kind of cows we wanted.

  2. What makes a good cow herd? Fertility or high conception rates, little or no sickness, no lameness, good (not exceptional) growth rates with minimal fed feed inputs, and good longevity.

    To state it simply, good cows raise a good calf and rebreed every year with minimal fed feed, don’t have issues that require the rancher’s attention and time, and live a long time. Most of your herds have some of those cows. If some can do it, why can’t they all?

  3. Most cows are culled for economic, not genetic, reasons. They are open or dry, have bad dispositions, raise a poor calf, or have enough age to diminish future productivity. They are no longer paying their way.

    If done regularly and with timely marketing, this culling can have a distinct economic impact on herd or ranch profitability. There is also a genetic impact from that kind of culling, but it is quite slow.

  4. Pay attention to conception rates and low inputs, not cow size. However, remember there is a negative correlation between frame size and feed intake. A smaller cow can meet maintenance requirements with less feed intake than a larger cow.

    There is reason to like cows with less hip height and more weight. If cows are too large for your environment and management, they will eliminate themselves; and the size of cows in your herd will decrease unless you select bulls that don’t fit your environment.

  5. In selecting maternal bulls, a good ratio of weight per inch of height will help you find bulls to sire good growth rates within a moderate frame size. I know a breeder who uses only yearling bulls on yearling heifers. He then uses DNA parentage information to array those bulls from most to fewest number of calves sired. This should be a pretty good test for semen quality, libido, and structural soundness. The good ones get the job done.

To summarize, good cows are the genetic result of combining 1) bulls that grow rapidly to a year of age within a moderate hip height and can sire a lot of calves as a yearling bull with 2) cows that always calve early in the calving season (result of first cycle conception), raise a good calf every year, have a good disposition, and require no individual attention from the rancher.

Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves, Inc. He resides in Orem, Utah. Contact him at burketei@comcast.net.

Why are we leaving reproductive technology sitting on the shelf?

Preg checking cows

Increasing reproductive efficiency with technology at hand is vital to improving beef production.

By Ky Pohler | Nov 25, 2019

Many technologies developed in the last 20 to 30 years have helped increase reproductive efficiency. Some producers were early adopters and have used these technologies successfully for years. Yet, there’s still room for more technology adoption, as USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System data indicates only:

  • 18% of operations palpate for pregnancies
  • 2.2% ultrasound for pregnancies
  • 7.9% use estrus synchronization
  • 7.6% use artificial insemination (A.I.)

Taking a step back, 54.5% of cow-calf producers don’t have a set calving season. Those herds account for more than a third of the total U.S. cow herd.

Related: Genetic evaluations: Refining the toolbox

These statistics are not meant to call out any single herd or producer. As an industry, we need to progress if we want to feed a growing population. And it’s up to all of us to help ensure we can.

Adopting reproductive technologies that have been sitting on the shelf will help get cows bred, improve profitability and feed a growing population.

Technologies on a shelf

Related: How do you find balance in your genetics? 4 commercial ranches share tips

A multitude of reproductive technologies exist, but here are a few that producers should be taking advantage of if they aren’t already:

  • Estrus synchronization. A lot of people associate estrus synchronization with A.I., but those two don’t have to be linked. Operations employing natural service can use estrus synchronization to move the cow herd forward into the breeding season by getting more cows cycling early. Doing this will help shorten the calving window and ultimately lead to a more uniform calf crop to market down the road.
  • Breeding indicators. A breeding indicator is a self-adhesive patch many producers have used primarily for heat detection. As cows are mounted, the surface ink of the patch rubs off to reveal an indicator color. Once a certain amount of color is exposed, typically 50%, the animal is considered in standing heat and ready to breed.
  • Pregnancy diagnosis.Knowing if a cow or heifer is pregnant allows producers to make management decisions much sooner than if they wait until the subsequent calving season. They can decide to sell an open animal or roll the animal from a spring calving group into a fall calving group, if they have the option.

The adoption investment

When it comes to technology adoption, there’s always some investment required. It may be labor, time or dollars. Evaluate how technology costs stack up with opportunity costs.

For instance, let’s say a producer paid $5,000 for a natural service sire, which provided breed average genetics. The next year the bull is culled because of lameness or low fertility. The bull only sells for $1,000 at cull price, so that is $4,000 of opportunity cost.

Instead, that $5,000 could be invested in the highest quality genetics available through A.I. From an efficiency point of view, you can move the herd forward because those genetics are going to lead to more pounds from your calves and enhanced calf value. At the end of the day, if producers can capture value using technology, it offers more opportunity to improve profit.

What’s at stake (or steak)

Looking forward, beef producers must find efficiencies to help feed a growing population. Projections from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations state that nearly double the amount of meat will need to be produced by 2050 to feed 9.1 billion people.

In beef production terms, 2050 is not that far away. It’s only 31 calf crops. If we don’t start to use efficiency-enhancing technologies, we may quickly wind up 15-20 calf crops down the road with limited improvements.

Pohler is assistant professor of beef cattle production/physiology of reproduction at Texas A&M University. Source: ESTROTECT, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Cattle Breeding Technologies in Perspective

Within this special genetics issue, experts from around the country discuss many different breeding technologies. Here’s a list, in no particular order:* Cloning* Marker-assisted selection (MAS)* Genetic prediction* Gene transfer* Sex control* Systematic crossbreeding and composites* Animal identification (DNA and biometric methods)* In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer* Marker-assisted mating*

Rick Bourdon | Mar 01, 1999

Within this special genetics issue, experts from around the country discuss many different breeding technologies. Here’s a list, in no particular order:

* Cloning

* Marker-assisted selection (MAS)

* Genetic prediction

* Gene transfer

* Sex control

* Systematic crossbreeding and composites

* Animal identification (DNA and biometric methods)

* In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer

* Marker-assisted mating

* Ultrasound

* Multibreed evaluation

* Selection indexes

These tools can be categorized in a number of ways. They could, for instance, be categorized by field of research – conventional (statistical/mathematical) animal breeding, molecular genetics or reproductive physiology.

In terms of their impact on genetic improvement, however, it’s more revealing to group the technologies by what they might accomplish. These are my three general categories (note that some technologies fit in more than one category):

1. Technologies designed to improve selection (to increase the rate of genetic change through more efficient selection of sires and replacement females);

2. Technologies designed to improve mating (to help us decide which males to breed to which females and in so doing manage both complementarity and hybrid vigor);

3. Technologies designed to evaluate the relative importance of traits.

Technologies To Improve Selection * Cloning – Clones provide breeders easy access to the best, most thoroughly evaluated animals, increasing accuracy and intensity of selection.

* Marker-assisted selection (for both simply inherited and polygenic traits).

* Genetic prediction (statistical models, new traits, etc.).

* Gene transfer – A long shot perhaps, but infusion of new genes could increase genetic variation, producing more radical genotypes than are available today.

* Sex control – Consistent production of daughters out of two-year-old dams, themselves out of two-year-old dams, is a clever way to decrease female generation interval.

* Animal identification – DNA fingerprinting allows more information to be harvested from multiple-sire pasture data. In combination with other identification technologies like retinal imaging, it could increase the amount of data available from commercial animals, most notably for carcass traits.

* In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer – These technologies could put females on a par with males in terms of number of offspring.

* Ultrasound – This technology gives us more information on hard-to-measure carcass traits.

* Multi-breed evaluation – With multi-breed evaluation, we get better genetic prediction for crossbred seedstock and composite breeds.

Technologies To Improve Mating * Cloning – F1 (terminal breed terminal breed) market clones raised by F1 maternal cloned females – could it be the ultimate mating system?

* Genetic prediction – Researchers are developing methods for predicting non-additive or gene combination value. This may allow us to better predict progeny performance for specific matings.

* Sex control – Maternal/terminal crossbreeding systems are more attractive with a practical method of sex control. Fewer cows are needed to produce replacements so more cows are available to produce market steers.

* Systematic crossbreeding and composites.

* Animal identification – DNA fingerprinting techniques have the potential to identify breed composition, allowing breeders to more closely manage heterozygosity and hybrid vigor.

* Marker-assisted mating – Marker information does not add much to selection accuracy if accuracy is already high (as it is for growth traits for popular AI sires), but knowing what major genes an individual carries could be helpful in designing matings.

Technologies Designed To Evaluate The Relative Importance Of Traits * Selection indexes

Most of the technologies discussed help us select animals, typically by increasing the accuracy of selection, sometimes by increasing selection response in other ways. A number of technologies, however, help us make mating decisions. Just one technology helps us determine which traits are most important. More on that later.

Rating Breeding Technologies To rate breeding technologies, we need information on each technology’s effectiveness, practicality, cost and availability.

Effectiveness simply means the technology’s potential to increase income or decrease costs. Practicality refers to the “pain” factor. Some technologies may be effective but involve such intense management that few will use them. Cost and availability are likely to change over time, so we must know not only how available and costly a technology is today but how available and costly it is likely to be in the future.

A truly organized thinker would rate technologies with a table like the following one (Table 1). We can’t fill in the table at this point because there are too many unknowns, particularly in the cost and availability columns. Instead, let’s consider a couple of informative examples.

* Marker-assisted selection for polygenic traits is a practical technology. It’s no more difficult for a commercial producer to use than a sire summary, and no more expensive for the commercial producer, either.

It’s also quite practical for the seedstock producer. He’ll need to collect some tissue on his animals and send it to a laboratory. The cost to him may not be too great on a per head basis but, with many animals being tested, can add up. Remember, the cost of research to develop the technology is considerable.

The effectiveness of marker-assisted selection isn’t immediately clear. Effectiveness depends on whether consistently important major genes are segregating for traits of economic importance, whether reliable markers or direct tests for these genes are found, and whether alternative sources of information are available in quantity. The jury is out, but evidence suggests marker-assisted selection will be useful for traits related to disease resistance and carcass quality.

* Cloning. The availability and cost of cloning are in question, but there’s no doubt about its effectiveness in commercial production – at least short term. The “genetic lift” created by the use of superior clones is substantial.

Cloning is especially interesting from the standpoint of practicality. In most cases, the higher tech a technology is, the more intensive management must be to make the technology effective.

Take artificial insemination, for example. For most commercial operations, the inconvenience of concentrating cattle, heat detecting, and breeding artificially outweigh (at least in the minds of commercial producers) the advantages of AI.

The same is true of embryo transfer, only the effect is multiplied. And cloning, when it involves large-scale embryo transfer, fits the same pattern. But what about cloned bulls?

It is not inconceivable that commercial producers will soon be able to buy, at $2,000 to $3,000, a copy of a highly superior, high-accuracy herd sire in the form of an embryo in a test tube, a fetus in a recipient cow or a yearling bull in the flesh.

Packaged in the latter form, this technology is the ultimate in convenience – just turn the bull out with the cows. Cloned bulls represent a rare commodity – a high-tech solution that doesn’t require intensive production practices to implement.

The Importance Of Trait Evaluation The third category in the list of breeding technologies is for technologies designed to evaluate the relative importance of traits. Just one technology is listed in this category, selection indexes, and that suggests, perhaps, that this is not an important category.

I think it suggests something quite different: that we are not paying enough attention to evaluating the relative importance of traits. By using the technologies in the other categories we can create rapid genetic change in the national cowherd. But there is no guarantee that we will change the cowherd for the better.

Charging ahead with new selection and mating technologies without evaluating traits is like building a new jet, complete with the most powerful and fuel-efficient engines, but without a navigation system. Trait evaluation technology is that navigation system.

In truth, there are more technologies in the trait evaluation category than selection indexes. I like to lump them under the heading of multiple-trait selection technologies.

Selection index technology is a start. Having general indexes for terminal sires and maternal breeds would be instructive. More useful, however, are customized multiple-trait selection technologies, techniques that allow individual commercial producers to derive indexes (or alternatives to indexes like sire sequences) specific to their environment, management practices and market.

Bioeconomic simulation has great potential in this respect and has the advantage of helping producers make not only breeding decisions but management decisions of all kinds.

As we learn more about new and changing breeding technologies, we will begin to fill in the table on page 43. It will become clear which technologies to get excited about, which to dismiss, and which to watch closely. And, (I hope) we will see more technologies, particularly multiple-trait selection technologies, appearing in the table, catching people’s imaginations, and finding success.

 

NEW Photo Contest: “Genetics In Action”

Genetics in Action

One of my favorite things about summer is checking pastures each night. As the long summer days come to a close, we load up the kids and head out to ride through the rolling hills where our cattle graze.

And each night, without fail, we notice a calf that’s really “coming on” lately (they must have found the creep feeder!), and we get excited about the matings that worked exceptionally well. We take note of which cows are really excelling and which ones may be run down or not milking as well. We start making a list of calves that will make it on the roster for our fall female sale and spring bull sale, and we write down which culls will head to the sale barn in the fall.

Soon, we’ll bring cow-calf pairs home, wean calves, collect weights, castrate bulls, administer vaccines and introduce the calves to the feed bunk.

By the end of September, the bottom-end of our calf crop will head to the sale barn, and we’ll watch them find a home with a local stocker or feedlot operator.

From there, we’ll continue feeding the sale bulls and replacement heifers, and finish rounding up forages for the winter months and calving season.

It won’t be long until calves start hitting the ground, and in the blink of an eye, we’ll be back to the breeding season. Our semen rep will deliver the units we ordered from the catalog. We’ll synchronize heifers and cows, and in the forthcoming days, we’ll be busy artificially inseminating (AI) as they come into heat, allowing two cycles before turning the cleanup bulls out to cover the herd.

READ: What’s the best option? Buy your replacements or raise them?

The breeding season is truly the beginning of every exciting stage of the cow-calf producers’ year, and the rewards follow suit.

I think no matter what stage in the beef production cycle you’re in, you can relate to those feelings of working hard, having a goal and aiming to achieve these new parameters that you’ve set for yourself. Whether that’s weaning heavier calves in the fall, making a premium grade on a load of fed steers or selling a high-dollar bull in a seedstock sale — this is an incredible business to be in, and everybody has a story to share!

This month, we’ve teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim and Synchsure (cloprostenol sodium) by Merial + Cystorelin (gonadorelin) by Merial to celebrate your genetics in action! We want to see the best of your best in photographs!

VIEW: Meet the 2018 Seedstock 100 operations

I’m excited to introduce our new photo contest “Genetics In Action,” and I invite you to submit your best image to me at amanda.radke@informa.com. With your email, please include your photo (one per person), a title or caption and your mailing address to be eligible to win.

View the photos in the gallery here.

Entries will be open until noon on August 27, and from there, we’ll narrow down the images and select the finalists who will be announced on August 28. As tradition, we’ll ask you to help select our champions, and voting will be open until September 5 with the winners to be announced on September 6.

New this time, we’ll be awarding four top photographers with $50 VISA gift cards, courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim and Synchsure (cloprostenol sodium) by Merial + Cystorelin (gonadorelin) by Merial. Plus, three voters will be randomly selected to win BEEF caps from our crew.

To view the contest rules, click here.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.