Managing Cattle with Different Genetic Potential
Featured article from the Central Grasslands Forum - Fall 2014 edition
Bryan Neville, Director and Animal Scientist, CGREC Dani Black, Graduate Student, NDSU Department of Animal Sciences
Producers now have the ability to know more about their cattle with advances in genetic testing. Having more information about the cattle we manage will help in managing those animal destined for feedlots. In a recent study conducted jointly with the NDSU Animal Sciences Department and the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, steers of varying genetic potential were used to explore how implant strategy and genetic potential for marbling and growth interact.
Steers were analyzed for genetic merit using a commercially available test and sorted into treatment groups based growth and marbling potential. Of the steers tested, the top-rated 36 steers and the bottom-rated 36 steers were used for this study.
Within each genetic merit group (high vs. low), half of each group was allocated to an aggressive implant program or a moderate implant program. Steers were ultrasounded to determine marbling score periodically during the study. All steers were fed a common diet individually for 140 days prior to being harvested.
In terms of growth performance, we found that the average daily gain of steers was not impacted by genetic potential; however, as expected, the aggressive implant strategy did improve growth by nearly 0.25 pounds/day.
Steers with high genetic potential for marbling had greater marbling scores than those steers with low genetic potential for marbling. This finding was also confirmed by the final carcass data.
One of the more interesting and seemingly profitable findings was that 22 percent more of the steers with high genetic potential for marbling qualified for Certified Programs at slaughter, compared with steers with low genetic potential for marbling. In fact, 66 percent of steers with high genetic potential for marbling that were implanted with a moderate implant program qualified for Certified Programs. In contrast, the percentage of cattle qualifying for Certified Programs with low genetic potential for marbling was not impacted by implant strategy.
This study was conducted with limited numbers of animals, but based on the preliminary results, producers feeding cattle with lower genetic potential would not sacrifice quality for increased weight gain when a more aggressive implant strategy is used. However, a more moderate implant strategy may help maximize returns for high-genetic potential calves. Testing this hypothesis on larger numbers of cattle is warranted.
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