Beef Cattle: Genetics

Competitiveness and profitability of any industry will be strong when a product is produced and marketed that is of value to the consumer. The same is true with Tennessee’s cow-calf industry. To remain competitive and profitable, a quality product, a feeder calf, must be produced to meet the needs of the remaining sectors of the beef industry and that results in a food product satisfying consumer demand. Cow-calf producers’ challenges and responsibilities are to put together cowherds with the genetic makeup to maintain profitability of the entire beef industry. Technologies and information are available that cow-calf producers can use to meet this challenge of making genetic improvements or directional changes in measurable, economically important traits.

Information and Resources

Link Pointer Feeder Cattle Genomic Tests: Analyzing Cattle Producer Adoption Decisions
Feeder cattle genomic tests (GTs) are a tool producers can use when making feeder cattle marketing and heifer retention decisions based on the expected performance of cattle in the feedlot or as replacement females. The goal of this publication is to report on research findings concerning Tennessee cattle producer preferences for GTs. Specifically, the following were evaluated (1) feeder cattle and replacement heifer producers’ interest in using GTs, (2) producer willingness to pay (WTP) for these tests, (3) the percentage of cattle they would test and (4) how producer and farm characteristics affect producers’ GTs adoption decisions when marketing feeder cattle and selecting replacement heifers.

Link Pointer Foot and Leg Trait EPDs
As we strive to improve our cowherds, measuring and predicting novel and economically relevant phenotypes related to cow longevity is crucial. Foot and leg scores are the most recent efforts and provide producers with another tool for selecting sound cows that will stay in the herd longer with fewer issues. Two of the most effective measures of structural soundness, foot angle and claw set, are moderately heritable. Both have heritability of 25% in American Angus. Slightly lower heritability have been reported in pilot studies of Red Angus and Simmental cattle. This means that making genetic progress on structural soundness, particularly when using an EPD, is possible for both seedstock and commercial producers.

Link Pointer Genetic Selection Tools for Foundation Traits in Beef Cows
Despite the clear costs associated with replacement heifer development or purchase, cow longevity and the traits that influence it are often overlooked or under-prioritized in the selection process. Breeding profitable cattle is a multi-faceted task that requires balancing many component traits that are often correlated. It is also essential to keep in mind that cow traits are not the only concern for an operation that still needs to produce direct revenue streams (e.g., weaned calf pounds). To make selection decisions more straightforward, breed associations have developed a variety of economic selection indexes tailored to specific production contexts.

Link Pointer The Difference in Accuracy (ACC), Percentile Ranking (%) and Genomic Scores of EPDs
Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) provide a means of estimating an animal’s genetic value as a parent for a particular trait. The EPD is used in selection programs by predicting differences in progeny performance of a particular trait between prospective parents. Included in the calculation of an individual’s EPD are its own performance record for a particular trait along with records on ancestors in the individual’s pedigree.

Link Pointer Crossbreeding in Beef Cattle
Improving the productivity and efficiency of a commercial beef production operation through genetic methods can be accomplished in two ways. One is by selection within a breed to improve economically important traits that contribute to the overall productivity of the straight breeding operation. The other method is implementing a crossbreeding program utilizing more than one breed.

Link Pointer Across-Breed EPD Adjustments
Most beef breed associations publish EPDs either on an annual, biannual or weekly basis. These EPDs are used to predict expected differences in performance of future progeny between two or more bulls within their same breed for performance traits.

Link Pointer Color Patterns in Beef Cattle
This fact sheet explains how color is inherited in cattle. Knowledge of the inheritance of color allows breeders to predict the color patterns to expect among calves when using different breeds in a cross-breeding program.

Link Pointer What Should Be Considered in Bull Selection
Outlines considerations for selecting sires, including type of breed, saving replacement heifers, increasing weaning weight and frame size, concerns about temperament, and where to find bulls.

Link Pointer Angus Cow Longevity Estimates and Relationship to Production Traits
Sire summaries are produced and published twice a year by breed associations to provide up to date genetic evaluations on progeny of proven sires within their breeds. The sire summary formats may vary between breeds.

Link Pointer EPDs and Accuracy
Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) are reported by most major breed associations and are a means of estimating an individual’s genetic value as a parent for a particular trait. The EPD is a means of predicting differences between progeny performance in a particular trait between prospective animals.