Help Increase Retained Ownership Odds with DNA Technology

Gain inside information about 15 economically important traits to make more confident feeder-calf decisions

Producers make tough decisions every day that directly affect the profitability of their herd. Fall brings decisions about feeder calves and questions about retaining ownership. Kevin Good, senior analyst, Cattle-Fax, says cow/calf producers should strongly consider holding onto feeder calves this fall.

“In 2008, calf prices dropped in the second half of the year so a lot of producers retained ownership of their calves, and it paid for those producers to do that,” he says. “When we consider that feeder-calf prices are likely to be depressed this fall; corn prices have come down from their 2008 record highs; and historically, it pays to hold calves into the feeding phase — we are recommending that cow/calf producers take a hard look at retaining ownership of their 2009 calf crop.”

Good adds that though all cow/calf producers stand to profit from retaining ownership, those who know more about their herd’s health and genetics are a step ahead.

“Producers who know about the genetics and health of their cattle are in better shape to be profitable when retaining ownership,” he says. “It definitely is a benefit to have information about the cattle’s potential to gain and perform for both yield and grade.”

Inside information for more confident decisions

Dr. Kevin DeHaan, technical services director, IGENITY®, says cow/calf producers can gain inside information about quality, yield grade and more this fall in time to make some important retained ownership decisions.

“The comprehensive IGENITY profile includes DNA analyses for 15 economically important traits, several of which directly affect feeder-calf profitability,” he says. “Producers can use this information to make more confident decisions about feeder calves to help ensure they are pointed in the most profitable direction based on their individual genetic merit.”

IGENITY offers analyses for average daily gain (ADG) and residual feed intake (RFI) as well as the most comprehensive list of carcass traits, including tenderness, marbling, quality grade, yield grade, fat thickness and ribeye area. Dr. DeHaan says when producers combine this powerful information with the user-friendly software from IGENITY, they can sort and manage feeder calves with more confidence.

“With the IGENITY custom sort software, producers can choose the traits that are most important and sort calves based on their scores for those traits,” he says. “In the case of feeder calves, producers may choose to focus on ADG, RFI, quality and yield grade. Then they can make decisions about calves based on where they fall within the group for these traits.”

For example, producers may choose to retain ownership of the group of calves that genetically are the most likely to gain efficiently and succeed when they are marketed on a grid/formula basis. The producer may choose to market the next group of calves on a live basis because they are more likely to gain quickly but they don’t have the genetic potential to grade Choice or better.

“With this powerful information in hand, producers can point calves in the direction that best suits each animal’s genetic potential,” Dr. DeHaan says. “There can be a significant amount of variation even within a group of calves from the same operation.”

Research has shown there can be as much as $370 per head difference in a group of cattle from the same genetic population.

“Using DNA technology to help sort feeder calves can help producers reduce some of this variability within a population, resulting in more profitable calves because they were marketed based on their individual genetic potential,” Dr. DeHaan says.

Few decisions have the economic impact for cow/calf producers as those involved with marketing and selling feeder cattle. Cattle-Fax says that market conditions are favorable this year for retaining ownership, but producers can’t afford to make decisions about feeder calves without all of the information available.

“It is easy to understand how the comprehensive IGENITY profile can help producers select and market breeding stock with more confidence,” Dr. DeHaan says. “But the power of DNA also can be used to help take some of the guesswork out of decisions about feeder calves — helping ensure calves are pointed in a direction where they are genetically more likely to succeed and be profitable.”