Genetic decisions Burt Rutherford

A new era in beef cattle genetics

Those who thought science would eventually lead to a simple, straightforward and universally accepted approach that would bring amazing clarity to genetic selection were terribly wrong. Or maybe we are just going to see a lot of upheaval on our journey to get there.

The genetic side of the business is entering a new era. There has been a lot of discussion about trying to apply the PIC hog model to the cattle industry. It will be very interesting to see it proceed and if anyone in the industry truly can differentiate themselves from the competition and create a system to capture and reward value better than the current structure. The opportunity is there, but implementation is the tricky part.  

The technology is evolving to where proprietary information, closed systems and customized approaches are possible. Now we will find out who can make them practical. The great irony is that the old system worked, and while the new systems are better, they are also exposing their fallibilities. Add in different data sets, different goals and different methodologies, and the good old days where everything was considered to be black and white are gone. 

Examples of the new and evolving technology in the genetics world include the Single Step genetic evaluation system recently implemented by the American Angus Association and the ABS Global announcement this week on its NuEra Genetics concept. According to ABS, “NuEra Genetics is the new brand by ABS Global that encompasses all proprietary ABS beef breeding programs, evaluations and indexes. Launched in July 2017, NuEra Genetics will deliver differentiated and superior terminal genetics for beef supply chain profitability.”

Supplying genetics is the priority of course, but they will also offer tailored evaluations and indexes that promise to deliver genetic progress and profit faster than the tools currently available. 

There has been a lot of discussion about tailored evaluations and indexes to improve genetic selection, but there has not been widespread adoption of these principles, primarily because of the sophistication and effort required to produce these tools. The one-size-fits-all approach has worked for the industry, but there is a growing awareness that customization has the potential to increase profits and the industry is seeking to exploit the opportunities that are presenting themselves. 

It is impossible to discuss all the ramifications of this increasing gray world of genetic evaluation. Those who thought science would eventually lead to a simple, straightforward and universally accepted approach that would bring amazing clarity to genetic selection were terribly wrong or we are going to see a lot of upheaval as we get there. The infamous” bull of the month club” approach never was a very good strategy, but it certainly will not work going forward. 

Whether you are in the purebred or commercial industry, the genetic selection process is going to require a little more homework going forward, at least in the short term. 

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