By Lance Bauer, Director of Breed Improvement & Western Field Representative
In the past couple of decades technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in almost every industry. With new technology we have more access to more data faster than we ever have before. The cattle industry is no different and technology is rapidly increasing and helping producers to make even more informed decisions than they have ever been able to before. Many people think that the cattle industry is behind the times when it comes to technology, but this is far from the truth. First producers took and recorded weights on their cows and calves, then other measurement technologies came along such as, ultrasound carcass scanning and now even measurements of feed intake and efficiency. These measurements have all gone into the calculation of EPDs, and EPDs have advanced more with the advent of DNA testing. What is the purpose of all of this technology though? All of these technologies help breeders make the most informed breeding decisions they can to maximize profits and move their cattle in the correct direction.
The first piece of technology that has been around for many years are scales, producers have been weighing calves and making selections based on these weights for a very long time. There are now scales that collect weights and transmit them directly to a computer or even cell phone with the use of an EID tag. It is important to take weights because these weights will go into the calculation of EPDs. Weights are important to every producer because the end product, beef, is marketed by the pound. Ultrasound technology has allowed producers to take images of the carcass without having to harvest the animals. Ultrasound measurements are also used to create EPDs that are used in progressing a herd. Weight traits and carcass traits are easy to improve because they are moderately to highly heritable.
The calculation of EPDs has been discussed in previous articles and the technology used has advanced, especially in the past few years with the advancement of DNA. The purpose of EPDs is to help both Seedstock and commercial producers make choices that make economic sense. DNA has been used in Single Step GE EPD calculations to make the initial EPDs more accurate. This calculation has been discussed in a previous article by John Genho.
DNA has been one of the largest and fastest growing advancements in the industry. The DNA technologies that are used have changed rapidly from using STRs to determine parentage to looking at thousands of SNPs to gather parentage as well as other information about the animal being tested. DNA is also being used on commercial cattle to calculate molecular breeding values for commercial producers and allow them to make decisions on keeping heifers with more information than they have previously been able to utilize.
All of the technology that is used within the industry has a purpose, and that purpose is to help make breeding decisions that will positively affect the bottom line of the producer. It is important in the cattle industry to keep up with technology and not get left behind. The world around us is constantly advancing and to stay in the game we need to advance with the rest of the industry. Use all the tools and technology available to make the most informed breeding decisions possible. Remember that the purpose of the Seedstock industry is to continue to advance and technology is the key to advancement.