Sometimes there’s more than what meets the eye. This week, the cattlemen and women of the Show-Me Select Replacement Heifer Program learned just that. Each year, this cooperative of elite commercial beef producers from Missouri embarks on a brief tour of other regional industry leaders in an effort to hone in on their skills of raising the best cattle.
This was my first exposure to the folks from the Show-Me Select program so I was especially excited to catch up with the group before they headed into western Kansas for their feedlot and packing plant tours. We traveled just north of Manhattan to Fink Beef Genetics. Gary and I shared an overview of the new GeneMax™ program with each of the tour buses on the way out to the farm, but let’s face it – these guys are professionals at raising quality cattle. They needed a challenge!
And so the gauntlet was thrown. With these industry veterans, a judging contest seemed appropriate.
They had six heifers to evaluate that evening. Based on phenotype and some very limited sire EPD data, everyone was asked to assign their best guess of a GeneMax™ score to each heifer. As attendees unloaded the buses, we armed them with their limited tools and sent them around to the back of the barn to evaluate the heifers.
Lots of folks had great questions – everything from how we calculate scores to how they can use results to market their cattle. Some people even became a bit frustrated, claiming that based on the information we provided, the best they could do was to guess. Wait; is there a moral to the story here?
We asked everyone to wrap up their answers and head back inside for a great dinner catered by Little Apple Brewery, a restaurant in Manhattan of which Finks are part owners. Sound familiar? There are good reasons why Little Apple Brewery is synonymous with great tasting beef, but that’s another story.
At the end of the night, we reviewed the GeneMax™ scores of our six competition heifers. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any surprised faces in the crowd. Out of more than 50 entries, only six people started the class with the actual highest scoring GeneMax™ heifer. Her half-sibling with the same sire data, however, scored nearly 40 points lower and was dead last.
The take home message is simple: with the information we have available, it is no longer enough to just make a gate cut on your replacement females based on phenotype and sire group. The tools we provided for this contest are not all that different from what many use today: visual characteristics and some sire data. GeneMax™ allows producers to go below the surface and select the best animals for grade and gain.
What about all that carcass and feed efficiency data you’ve been collecting on your cows for the last three years? Sure, those are great tools to have. But think of how many years of records you can catch up to by using a simple DNA test.
Many Missouri breeders left considering how they can put new genomic technology to work for them. No doubt “show me” is no longer just the state motto, but also a genetic state of mind.
Although I’ve been with CAB since 2009, I’m the newest member of the Black Ink team as a Supply Programs Manager.
I’m the third generation to thrive from my family’s Angus farm near Orleans, Indiana, and am a proud alumni of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. I’m a gypsy at heart, yet my constant love for God, family and agriculture keep me grounded no matter where I am on the globe.”
I like my meat red, my cattle black and my basketball Kentucky blue!