Creativity and ingenuity are crucial if we are to have new growth opportunities. But cool ideas without the ability to truly have a positive impact on the long-term success of the commercial beef business are hollow and destined to fail. The core of any breed association is credible genetic evaluation. It would make sense then, that novel approaches and new business endeavors would align with the skillset necessary to deliver elite-level genetic awareness.
Massive genotyping research projects have been implemented on two fronts in recent years. It’s no coincidence that those efforts align with earlier-discussed issues of enhancing predictors of cow longevity and gaining more insight into the genetics of carcass parameters.
The Cow Herd DNA Roundup (CHR) was implemented to encourage submission of unique maternal metrics that are all too frequently lacking in a genetic evaluation. To label CHR as a success to this point would be an understatement. Between the inception of the program in 2017 through mid-2019, there have been over 40,000 female genotypes, over 40,000 mature cow weights, and over 30,000 body condition scores incorporated into the genetic evaluation because of CHR. This trend has continued since that time and has greatly improved the accuracy of prediction for all members, large and small, CHR users or not. This manifests itself every time you or I use a genomic panel. Even if I wasn’t a CHR participant the knowledge gained by the project makes my selection and breeding decisions more valid and more impactful.
In a similar fashion, the Carcass Expansion Program (CXP) looks to glean more power from genomics by linking actual carcass data with pedigree knowledge and DNA. Much like the CHR, this multi-year research project benefits all members and has a tremendous advantage for members who are unable to directly participate by retaining ownership on their terminal calves. The genomic insight makes its way to the daily DNA tests we run on our own farm or ranch. We get more carcass awareness by the work of our peers in the Simmental business who are positioned to own their steers and heifers through the feedyard. The first year of this five-year effort brought in more than 4,000 carcass records with genomic information and pedigrees. That more than doubles the number of carcasses normally entered in a given year! The second year of the program has 4,600 head committed, and staff is presently communicating with producers regarding year three. Bold steps that only enhance the next chapter of the modern Simmental story.
By definition, new growth means bringing new folks to the party. As a result, ASA has provided a platform through Total Herd Enrollment (THE) that allows for seedstock producers of any breed composition or breed affiliation to receive EPDs and Indexes. They benefit from the services and multi-breed approach the organization provides. This broadens the reach of our business philosophy — specifically allowing breeders who are looking for new association attitudes and capabilities, or for those who’ve never found a genetic evaluation home — to get the breeding, selection, and marketing information they need. Their data makes for a more robust and accurate genetic evaluation for all parties involved. This novel approach provides for serious growth opportunities while generating superior knowledge for the more traditional ASA audience.
In the same vein, a subset of commercial operations is prepared to capture the genetic insight that comes with data collection. While this is a fairly small percentage of the commercial landscape, it is a crucial group that often has direct access to carcass records and long-term female metrics that are tied to pedigrees — and more and more frequently, to genomics. The inclusion of that information into the genetic evaluation makes all of our EPDs more meaningful, relevant, and accurate. As such, there is even a mechanism for those folks to work within the Total Herd Enrollment system. They receive female-only EPDs and Indexes — something never before available in the commercial space, and the rest of us benefit from the inclusion of hard-to-capture data. New growth is a win-win for both the core of the business and unique situations present outside the traditional association framework.
Welcome collaboration. Welcome International Genetic Solutions. Our friends at the HBR would undoubtedly see International Genetic Solutions (IGS) as one of the turning points and game-changers in the long-established beef business. For far too long, we’ve isolated our different breed types into silos, making it difficult and uncomfortable for commercial beef operators who were trying to make wise decisions for their family’s future. Many other individuals and entities have tried through the years to piece together multi-breed genetic evaluation. Despite serious commitment and remarkable efforts, essentially all those failed, until the humble, thoughtful, collaborative effort that morphed into IGS. IGS presently has 16 different breed association partners, and the 17th partner of the group is Neogen Genomics, Inc. IGS leverages the strength of the science team at ASA to provide the most credible and trusted EPDs in the business to breed associations across the globe. IGS is the largest beef genetic evaluation on the planet with 20,000,000 animal records and nearly 400,000 added annually. Yes, ASA data is the largest group within IGS, but it isn’t about the size of any group. It is about the connectedness across the various populations that make the genetic predictions more accurate and more thorough.
The Power of Collaboration
The volume of records by year of birth from each individual
breed association compared to the pooled IGS Data
The IGS Feeder Profit Calculator™ (FPC) is a perfect example of what happens when we work together. The FPC gives commercial producers and feedlot buyers the ability to communicate about the profit potential within a set of calves. All while using a common language readily understandable by both sides — dollars and cents! This tool works across breed types and allows you to provide your customer with an awareness and marketing tool never before seen in the industry. And, by the way, at no cost to its users!
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