Monday, February 9, 2015

Register for NCBA Cattlemens Webinar:
New Tools in Bull Selection
Understanding and Using Selection Indexes

NCBA has recognized the changing face of selection in the seedstock industry. In order to help commercial producers make wiser selection decisions during the upcoming bull sales this spring, they are hosting a webinar at 7:00 pm CST on February 19th. Space is limited, so sign up soon. For those who can't catch the session live, it will be recorded and a link posted on the NCBA webpage.

The seminar will feature Dr. Dan Moser from the American Angus Association, Jack Ward from the American Hereford Association, and Dr. Wade Shafer from the American Simmental Association.

For more information and to register, visit the NCBA website.

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 Angus Convention to Host International Genomics Symposium

The American Angus Association® and Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) will host the first-ever International Genomics Symposium as part of the 2015 Angus Means Business National Convention and Trade Show.

The event takes place Nov. 3 in Overland Park, Kan., and will provide cattle producers with cutting-edge information about advancements in genomics technology – and how these advances impact their businesses.

The symposium is sponsored by GeneSeek, a leading provider of comprehensive genomics solutions to the cattle industry, including the GeneSeek Genomic Profiler (GGP-HD).

“We are excited about the symposium and what it will mean for the cattle business,” says Dan Moser, AGI president. “Genomics is rapidly reshaping the way we produce livestock, and providing producers with the best information available will not only help us improve quality and consistency, but also make our industry more competitive.”

Genomics researcher and entrepreneur Richard Resnick (previously featured on this blog) will be the event’s keynote speaker. Resnick serves as CEO of GenomeQuest, a company that builds software to support genomic medicine, research and individualized treatments. Before becoming a bio-entrepreneur, Resnick was a member of the Human Genome Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Resnick will be one of several widely acclaimed experts on genomics technology to be speaking at the event.

“GeneSeek has partnered with the Angus breed since 2009, and our sponsorship of the symposium is a natural extension of our long-standing commitment to the breed and the cattle industry,” says Dr. Stewart Bauck, general manager of GeneSeek/Neogen Agrigenomics. “There is intense interest among cattle producers about genomics – and this event will go a long way in serving GeneSeek’s mission not only to advance the use of genomics technology, but also show the positive impacts it will have on producers.”

The rise of genomic testing and evaluation is reshaping the Angus business at an accelerating pace. In fiscal year 2014, genomic testing increased by 32%, and AGI recently reported that genomic testing in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015 grew by more than 56%.

The 2015 Angus Means Business National Convention and Trade Show takes place Nov. 3-5 at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kan. The first-ever convention last year attracted nearly 2,000 progressive producers from across the country. For more information about the convention, visit

Avoid the Headache: Properly Submitting DNA Samples
Breed Improvement Session
Angus Means Business National Convention

DNA sampling
Tonya Amen, AGI
During the second portion of the Breed Improvement session, Dr. Amen answered the question "How can we avoid sample failure when DNA testing animals?" She gave four points:

  1. Have proper collectors on hand. Blood samples are preferred, as the process can be automated. Blood samples can also be archived, whereas tissue samples cannot be. Contact your DNA service provide or see the Angus website. Have samples properly identified. "You cannot invent your own collection system!" said Amen. A business card, airline barf bag, and other home-remedies won't work!
  2. Practice good sampling technique. Make sure you have a nickel sized spot that has soaked completely through the card. Do not send wet samples-mold will grow like crazy! Make sure samples dry overnight in a safe place (not the dash of your truck!).
  3. Package well. Padded envelopes work well.
  4. Consider shipping method. How long will the sample be in transit?

Staff at AGI have a mantra about blood card sampling—Donor Dams Die. Collect samples on your animals, even if you think you will never DNA test that animal. Better to be safe than sorry.
When sampling twins, hair samples are required due to twins sharing blood in the cows uterus.
If blood cards are stored at home, store in a cool dry place and do not store in plastic.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Angus Only No More!
Maternal Edge Female Profile, Igenity Gold and Silver Profiles Are Released

Previously, when I spoke with commercial producers about genomic predictions for their heifers, I talked about two products, the GeneMax Focus and the GeneMax Advantage tests marketed by Zoetis. This has now changed.

GeneMax Focus and GeneMax Advantage

Of course, genomic predictions for seedstock cattle have been available for a large number of breeds, including Angus, Red Angus, Simmental, Hereford, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Santa Gertrudis, and Charolais. But, genomic predictions for commercial cattle where only available from Zoetis for high-percentage (greater than 75%) Angus cattle.

GeneMax Focus was the first commercial cattle genomic prediction test released. It provides predictions on a 5 point scale for marbling and gain, and an index called a GMX score on a scale from 1 to 100. These scores are percentile ranks where 50 is average, 1 is the bottom of the heap, and 99 is top of the class. This test cost $17. From my conversations, it explains about 20% of the variation in marbling and gain. This test is most appropriate for commercial producers who retain ownership of their cattle in the feedlot.

In March, 2014 Dr. Kent Anderson said Zoetis was working on a "complete game plan." Zoetis is leveraging data and information from the seedstock level to build products for the commercial level. At that time they released the Zoetis GeneMax Advantage test. This test reports three indexes, a Cow Advantage index focused on cow-calf production, a Feeder Advantage index focused on performance in the feedlot and on the grid, and a Total Advantage index which ranks animals on performance from conception to carcass. These indexes are also reported as a percentile ranks from 1 to 100. The GeneMax Advantage test also reports SMART Outliers. This flags animals that have extreme values for cow size, milk, docility, marbling, and tenderness. This test explains approximately 65% of the variation in dozens of traits and then combines these predictions into indexes based on economic importance. Those who have talked with a beef genetics extension specialists know indexes are the preferred way for commercial cattlemen to make selection decisions. This test costs $44 and is appropriate for anyone with high-percentage Angus.

Maternal Edge by American Gelbvieh Association and GeneSeek

In November of 2014 the AGA and GeneSeek release the Maternal Edge Female Profile. This is a commercial heifer genomic prediction for high-percentage Gelbvieh females. The Maternal Edge Female Profile returns scores for calving ease, maternal calving ease, weaning weight, yield grade, marbling, and carcass weight. Scores are from 1 to 10, with 5 being average, 1 being worst, and 10 best compared to the American Gelbvieh Association animals with genomic predictions. Kari White of the American Gelbvieh Association stated that simplicity was a priority in the design of this test. This test cost $26 and is appropriate for anyone with high-percentage Gelbvieh cattle.

Igenity Gold and Silver

On their website, Neogen GeneSeek announced the release of Igenity Gold and Igenity Silver profiles. They will introduce the product at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention on February 4th and the tests will be available March 1st.

Dr. Stewart Bauck said, "Previously we screened for hundreds of gene markers. Now we target thousands, and are focusing on the most powerful genes that affect profits in commercial cow herds." The new Igenity Gold profile ranks cattle on 12 categories of maternal, performance, and carcass traits, while the Igenity Silver profile ranks animals on 6 categories. Both tests offer free parentage verification. The profiles can also be combined with BVD-PI and pregnancy testing. The profiles will also test for the presence of male Y chromosomes in females, which research at USDA-MARC suggests reduces fertility. Igenity is also improving its website to provide producers with tools to manage their selection decisions.


As part of the Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, we have created a new designation for heifers with genomic predictions called Show-Me-Plus. In the past, the Show-Me-Select program created a designation for heifers that were out of high-accuracy AI sires called Tier II heifers. Buyers had more information about these heifers and consistently paid a premium for them. To capitalize on the increased information provided by genomic predictions, the Show-Me-Select program created the Show-Me-Plus designation. These are either registered heifers with genomic-enhanced EPDs or commercial heifers with a prediction from an approved genomic test. The GeneMax Advantage and Maternal Edge Heifer Profiles are currently approved for use in the program. Watch this blog or the Show-Me-Select website for more information about Show-Me-Plus heifers.

Take Home Messages

The GeneMax Focus, GeneMax Advantage, and Gelbvieh Maternal Edge Heifer Profile are all built on genomic prediction best practices and are designed with the breed-specific nature of genomic predictions in mind. We also expect that other breed associations will be releasing breed-specific commercial heifer predictions in the future. I will pass along more information about the new Igenity profiles as I gather it. As more commercial heifer genomic predictions are released a greater number of beef farms and ranches will have access to the benefits of genomic technology.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Genomics and Economics: A One-Two Punch

On January 27th I spoke with Scott Brown during the evening portion of the Southwest Missouri MU Extension Beef Cattle Conference organized by Patrick Davis, Andy McCorkill, and Eldon Cole. I discussed the facts about EPDs working to change a herd and how genomic testing can improve the precision and reliability of EPDs. Genomic testing is allowing us to select for traits that were previously not under selection, such as feed efficiency, bovine respiratory disease resistance, embryonic loss, and tenderness. You can download my slides from my extension website.

But, in this post, I want to focus on Scott Brown's comments. For those of you who don't know Dr. Brown, he is a leading agriculture economist who has been influential in the formation of agricultural policy on the state and national level. On Tuesday night he gave a projection on the future of beef cattle economics. As we all know, beef prices are at record highs, but this is driven by historically low cattle numbers. Dr. Brown encouraged producers to plan for how they will remain profitable when the supply eventually catches up and the cattle market goes through a down cycle.

What risk management strategies can we employ now? Dr. Brown pointed out, and I emphasize here, that a focus on beef quality can be an effective way to remain profitable in the long term. In the past, when economists have looked at beef demand they have analyzed beef as a whole. In his group's recent research they have focused on beef demand by quality grade. What they found is that consumers are more likely to substitute pork or chicken as the price of select beef increases. But, the demand for prime beef is very elastic, meaning that despite increases in price consumers will continue to purchase prime beef. Further, prime and choice beef is much more resistant to replacement with pork or chicken compared with select. Farms and ranches that produce prime and choice cattle are more likely to remain profitable even in economic downturns.

Finally, I want to emphasis a connection that Brown made during his presentation. He pointed out that genomic technology now gives us the tools to more effectively breed and produce high quality cattle. The resources are now available to predictably and consistently produce cattle that will grade high choice or prime. In addition to the benefits I often list for genomics (including reliable estimates for young animals, reduced purchasing risk, more reliable and intense selection of females, and identifying differences between siblings), Brown points out that selection for high quality beef is an effective strategy to remain profitable in the always uncertain economic climate. Genomics has produced the tools to make this happen. When you combine new technologies with economic incentives, you have a powerful one-two punch.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

MU Extension Beef Cattle Conference in Stockton Jan. 27
Pre-register with payment by Jan. 20

STOCKTON, Mo. – The Southwest Missouri MU Extension Beef Cattle Conference begins at 4 p.m., Jan. 27, 2015, at the Stockton United Methodist Church in Stockton.

The Southwest Missouri MU Extension Beef Cattle Conference is designed to provide the latest information on beef cattle production, marketing, economics, nutrition, and forage utilization. 

Presenters at the meeting include:
  • Dr. Scott Brown, assistant research professor of agricultural and applied economics at University of Missouri, will provide a 2015 economic outlook of the beef cattle industry.
  • Dr. Jared Decker, assistant professor of beef genetics extension and computational genomics at the University of Missouri, will discuss beef cattle genetics.
  • Sarah Kenyon, agronomy specialist with MU Extension in Texas County, will discuss pasture management to reduce fescue toxicity.
The evening meal will be catered by Maggie Mae's Tea Room of Miller, Mo.

“That same evening, agriculture businesses that have supported the event will have booths set up. Attendees can visit and learn how their products and can help improve your beef cattle operation,” said Dr. Patrick Davis, county program director for Cedar County Extension.

The cost of the event for those who pre-register and pay prior to Jan. 20, 2015, is $20 per person. Payment at the door will cost $30 per person.

For details on this event, contact the Cedar County MU Extension Center at (417) 276-3313 or send an email to

For more information about livestock, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, (417) 466-3102, Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551, or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.

Friday, December 19, 2014

GE-EPDs and Genetic Selection
Breed Improvement Session
Angus Means Business National Convention

There was standing room only for the Breed Improvement Session of the Angus Means Business National Convention on November 4th, 2014.

Genomic Recalibration
Dan Moser, Angus Genetics Incorporated
Performance data reported to the American Angus Association has become more important than ever. Not only is this data necessary to get highly precise estimates from sires, but it is the foundation of developing genomic predictions for genomic-enhanced EPDs. In the training or recalibration of genomic predictions, basically an EPD effect is estimated for every DNA variant included in the genomic prediction test. The genomic prediction (also called the Molecular Breeding Value, MBV) is the sum of every EPD effect for approximately 50,000 DNA variants evenly spread throughout the cattle chromosomes.

Initial GE-EPDs in 2010 were based on 2,253 animals. In 2012 the training set increased to  11,756, by 2013 the training set was larger than 38,000 animals, and now in 2014 has reached over 57,000 animals.

Moser said, "No one item by itself gives us the best story." Precision of genetic predictions relies on using pedigree, performance, progeny, and MBV.

Tonya Amen, Angus Genetics Incorporated
MaternalPlus is a voluntary, inventory-based reporting system. This whole-herd reporting program allows the capture of reproductive trait data. This allows improvement of reproductive selection tools.

"If it is important to them, it needs to be important to you," Amen stated to encourage seedstock producers to keep the needs of their commercial customers in mind. While decreasing generation interval is important in a seedstock setting, longevity is vital in commercial operations. For each inventoried female, producers need to report a calf record, disposal code for the cow, or reason the cow did not have a calf reported.

Certain results will only be available to MaternalPlus members. This include:

  • Within herd genetic trend- how do you relate to the breed? 
  • Production records 
  • Calving distribution 
  • Cow-age performance summary 
  • Dam disposal report- why are your cows leaving the herd? 
  • Female age distribution 

New perks coming to the program include:

  • A MaternalPlus logo, 
  • MaternalPlus catalog inserts
  • Other customizable MaternalPlus advertisements 
  • Periodic mention as MaternalPlus participant in the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin 

Dan Moser pointed out that AAA has been ahead in many instances, but in terms of cow herd reporting and longevity EPDs the Angus Association has been way behind.

Angus $Value Indexes
Dan Moser, AGI
The $F index (SHORT EXPLANATION) originally include rough estimations of feed efficiency as fewer days on feed due to quicker growth rate. But, the relationship between feed efficiency and growth is not 1 to 1. Intake data has accumulated over time and now allows inclusion of feed intake into $F and $B indexes. Feed intake remained fairly level for the early years of $F indexes, but in the past few years, genetic trend for feed intake has changed drastically. Each year the economic assumptions of the $Value indexes are updated, and AGI is taking this opportunity to incorporate feed intake into the $F and $B indexes. The changes in index values will be mostly be due to updated economic assumptions with changes due to feed intake being secondary.

Foot Scores
Moser also discussed foot scoring. Producers are reporting two main issues: shallow heals with long toes and scissor or corkscrew claws, which may be related. What we need is a simple system to score cattle for these two conditions. In a new research program members will provide two scores to AGI, foot angle and claw set. Both scores are on a 1 to 9 scale where 5 is ideal. The AGI scoring system will be similar to parts of the Australian system, but greatly simplified. Breeders are asked to score the worst foot. An ideal angle would be a 45 degree angle between hoof and pastern. EPDs may be calculated in the future, but the soonest impact may be more attention paid to foot structure. Australian data suggests heritabilities around 15% for foot angle and hoof set. Scoring must be done prior to hoof trimming. Producers will need to submit basic information on feed ration when submitting foot scores. EPDs will be provided as soon as sufficient data is available.

See the 2014 Angus Convention Newsroom for more information from the session.