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AgriLife Extension: Genomic-enhanced data has a place in building back cattle herds

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By: Kay Ledbetter

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, [email protected]
Contact: Dr. Joe Paschal, 361-265-9203, [email protected]

AMARILLO – Genetic markers are beginning to give cattlemen a more accurate glimpse into their breeding animals’ expected progeny differences or EPDs when selecting for traits to build into their herds.

As the industry begins to rebuild its herds following years of drought, genomic-enhanced EPDs can help cattlemen make more informed decisions, whether they have purebred or crossbred herds, said Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock specialist at Corpus Christi.

Speaking at the recent Southwest Beef Symposium in Amarillo, Paschal said the Angus and Santa Gertrudis breed associations are already using this tool and he expects others to soon adopt the technology.

Paschal said two things are important when building a crossbreeding program – breed selection and hybrid vigor.

“You need to make selections that fit the market conditions and the environmental conditions you have, because you have to live with those breeds,” he said. “Make sure the right breeds are used for the right reasons.”

Typically, a breeding animal is chosen based on its EPD for a given trait, such as weaning weight. For instance, one bull may have an EPD of 20 for weaning weight and another bull have an EPD of 10, which means the bull with the EPD of 20 will likely sire calves that wean 10 pounds heavier.

EPD traits of interest are birth weight and weaning weight, calving ease score and carcass traits such as marbling, Paschal said. EPDs are calculated from the animal’s data and close relatives and are reported in units of the trait.

“You need to select for all traits that are important to you,” he said. “But traits that are economically relevant, those that have an immediate impact on rate of return, are most important. Selection for economically relevant traits such as weaning weight could increase several pounds or marbling by a large percentage. Selection to decrease birth weight, even by a few pounds, doesn’t affect economics, but selection to increase calving ease does.”

EPDs are not new and are widely accepted in most breeds and have a lot of usefulness in crossbreeding programs, Paschal said.

However, he said, the newer genomic-enhanced EPDs can get breeders a step ahead.

“This process is taking genetic markers and including them into the EPD calculation,” Paschal said. “We can compare known markers in particular young bulls that may not be proven yet and we can improve the accuracy of their EPD values.”

He said less than 5 percent of the people in the cattle business are in the purebred industry, and some of them aren’t going to use it. But with the price becoming more reasonable, $50 for the genomic scans for markers, more could be switching.

“It makes sense to do it if you are in the cattle business because it gives you a leg up on the others,” Paschal said. “You can know something about the performance early in an animal’s life and also know quite a lot about their carcass long before they’re dead.”

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Farm & Ranch

Mammals and Avian Influenza

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By Barry Whitworth, DVM

At the writing of this article, High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been detected in more than 83 million domestic poultry in the United States. The outbreak includes commercial and backyard flocks.

Most people are aware that poultry may succumb to Avian Influenza but may not know that other animals can be infected with the virus. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a variety of mammals have been infected with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the U.S.

The list of more than 200 mammals includes bears, foxes, skunks, coyotes, etc. Even marine animals such as dolphins and seals have been found with the virus. Current Avian Influenza H5N1 infections in poultry, mammals, and livestock in the U.S. can be found at the Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza website at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/livestock-poultry-disease/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-detections.

Recently, ruminants have been diagnosed with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the U.S. The World Organization for Animal Health reported that neonatal goats displaying neurological clinical signs and death were positive for Avian Influenza.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

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By Rayford Pullen | [email protected]

When May arrives, we start thinking about weed control. With two years of drought under our belts, grass grazed short and hay stocks depleted, what we do now will influence our forage conditions for the entire year. With 75 percent of our annual warm season forages made by July 15 in North Texas, we need to get the grass growing while the sun shines.

Speaking of the sun shining, the biggest deterrent to growing lots of grass is restricted sunlight, and the biggest sun blockers we have are weeds.

Have you noticed weeds are normally just slightly taller than your grass and are probably blocking 90 percent of the sunlight from reaching the grass itself? So obviously, we need to improve conditions, so sunlight reaches the plants we want to grow.

With grass extremely short, more sunlight is hitting the soil surface now, which in turn results in more weed seed germinating. With the moisture we have received, we expect an abundance of weeds this year.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Land Market Report: March Land Sales

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By Jared Groce

Rural land sales are continuing on a steady pace for early spring, with prices holding very strong with the sell-to-list price ratios remaining very high, even on properties that have been on the market for a longer than usual time period. The total number of transactions are picking up once again as the spring selling season kicks off, and the average acreage continues to decrease.

Larger acreage properties seem to be in higher demand than smaller properties currently, with many buyers simply parking cash in real estate to hedge against inflation. Interest rates seem to have settled down and most experts agree that rates will be reduced by the fed this year. Some lenders have programs in place that allow the buyer to reduce their rates without having to go through a full refinance ordeal.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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