“If you think about where we are in the industry in terms of cost and revenue, these will be the most expensive heifers that producers have ever kept or purchased,” says Dan Moser, of the 2014 heifer crop.
With such a significant investment, producers “want and need all of the information possible in making these purchase and retention decisions,” says Moser, the new president of Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) and director of performance programs for the American Angus Association (AAA).
The potential of these decisions begins and ends with genetic merit. In turn, utilizing genetic merit to its potential relies on accurate prediction.
During his 15-year tenure at Kansas State University (KSU), Moser conducted research and taught animal breeding and genetics. His work focused on developing and utilizing genetic prediction tools in order to improve cow-calf profitability.
At KSU, Moser served as the breed association liaison for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Carcass Merit Project, working directly with 13 breed organizations, including AAA.
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He also served as a director of the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium and the Ultrasound Guidelines Council, and faculty coordinator for the KSU Purebred Beef Unit, which includes purebred herds of Angus, Hereford and Simmental.
For someone with this professional background, who grew up in the business and remains active in his family’s operation, accepting the new AGI assignment is akin to a baseball fanatic finding himself with a mitt in the Yankees dugout.
Like the Yankees analogy, Angus holds such genetic sway within the U.S. beef industry that it’s hard to argue with the notion that the progress of the Angus breed goes a long way in determining that of the U.S. cowherd.
“In my opinion, the Angus database is the most valuable asset in the global beef industry, and I take stewardship of that asset very seriously,” Moser says. “When utilized appropriately, it can be a phenomenal tool for innovation. As we test more and more animals, there is a huge opportunity to strengthen predictions.”
The next step
When Moser was selecting a sire with which to artificially inseminate his first 4-H heifer, his dad sorted through the Curtiss Breeding Service catalog and gave him the choice between two.
“I had a pedigree, a picture and a prayer,” Moser remembers with a wry chuckle.
Today, there are genomic-enhanced EPDs, offering producers as much genetic prediction accuracy for newborn calves as if those calves already had 7-20 (depending on the trait) progeny contributing to their genetic evaluation. There are multi-trait selection indices and more.
“The Angus breed has an outstanding genetic evaluation in place and has long been the leader in beef genetic evaluation,” Moser says. “I’m committed to helping us maintain that role.”
For all the power of genomics and genomic-assisted tools, though, Moser emphasizes, “Data collected by producers becomes more important rather than less important, because the genomic predictions are based upon the collected phenotypic data.”
With that in mind, Moser explains an AGI priority is encouraging increased participation in the breed’s inventory-based data reporting and recordkeeping system. Such reporting enables development of new prediction tools for traits like cow fertility and longevity. It also bolsters accuracy of current prediction tools.
Another AGI focus is to enhance and strengthen decision-support aids. As examples, think of the Angus breed’s dollar-value indices.
“We want to include more traits in these indices that have an impact on profit,” Moser says.
He adds that they continue evaluating ways to make these kinds of tools more user-friendly as well.
AGI is also currently evaluating the need and potential for developing genetic prediction tools for other traits.
“We want to make sure we provide commercial producers with predictive tools that offer them the most potential for greater profitability,” Moser says.
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