Selecting Heifers With Confidence
by IBBA Member Relations Specialist Macee Prause
There is a new DNA-assisted test available exclusively through the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) for Brangus® commercial cattle. Igenity® Brangus is a genomic profiler for Brangus commercial cattle that aims to provide cattlemen with more confident selection, breeding and management of superior replacement heifers. It permits selection decisions to be made at a younger age allowing the cattleman the opportunity to save money on heifer development. “It allows them to select animals that are going to meet the goals of the operation and see what they actually have and direct their buying,” explained Neogen Beef Genomics Territory Manager Jill Ginn. “Whichever trait they are short or a little low on, they can better select bulls for these traits when purchasing.”
Using one-to-10 trait ranking scores, with the three available Brangus indices, you will be able to improve traits in your herd faster. Additionally, producers can confirm parentage and carcass tenderness traits in breeding stock and showcase herd quality using DNA results when marketing. “Curiosity more than anything,” Arlie Beckendorf, of Beckendorf Ranch, stated, “I wanted to see what my herd might be producing.” With improved prediction, Igenity Brangus can save you years on your herd improvement goals. Miguel Soto, Costa Rican Brangus breeder, said, “We do believe in our own selection. We decided to use it, because we wanted to have that additional tool. We saw American breeds and other breeds move to use [Igenity], and we wanted to research how it was being used in the American market.”
To order the Igenity Brangus profiler, producers must simply collect DNA samples when handling cattle, such as at branding, processing or vaccination. Fast, clean, easy DNA sampling like Allflex Tissue Sampling Units (TSU) are recommended. The Igenity Brangus DNA order form may be completed online at gobrangus.com/igenity-brangus, and DNA samples should be sent to IBBA. Approximately 28 days after lab receipt, the producer will receive an emailed report that ranks tested animals on an easy-to-read one-to-10 scale for maternal, growth and carcass traits including tenderness, the Brangus Built Index, the Maternal Economic Index, the Terminal Economic Index, SeekSire parentage, and content on how to interpret the results.
“Typically, there is no incentive to produce a more tender animal in today’s market, but ultimately we do select for [tenderness],” stated Ginn. “If we do not produce a tender, good-quality product to consumers, they will stop purchasing beef.”
“[The tenderness trait] will influence the product a lot but not necessarily the producer,” Beckendorf added. “By providing a better product for the consumer, I would make adjustments, selecting sires that offer the best tenderness traits.”
“Little by little, the markets are going toward tender beef,” Soto said. “It is currently a trait not being paid to the producer, but [tenderness] is important to the consumer. It is, unfortunately, a trait overlooked at the time.”
Ranked traits include calving ease direct, calving ease maternal, maternal weaning weight, scrotal circumference, weaning weight, yearling weight, intramuscular fat, ribeye area, fat thickness, and tenderness. The Brangus Built Index provides an equal weighing of maternal traits and carcass traits. You can use the report to select which heifers to keep, which to market as feeders, and to identify herd qualities upon which you strive to improve. “[Igenity Brangus can benefit the commercial cowman] through sire selection, if you know what the DNA status is for a dam then you can make decisions about keeping a replacement heifer,” said Beckendorf. “If I am marketing steers, even though I’m not taking them to the rail, I can improve the [ribeye area] and get a better price, including marketing commercial bulls.”
“Our situation is a little different as we are a tropical environment, different from the American environment and market,” Soto explained. “Select for what the market wants and what your environment allows. We are maniacs about measuring all the data. So, we have all the data about the animal’s time from the ranch, including phenotypic, and we use the genetics as an additional tool to better understand how it correlates. It is not the only selection tool, but an additional tool.”
Future product developments with Neogen include building a “Brangus Dashboard,” which will allow commercial cattlemen an online area to store and interpret their results.
“The Brangus producers will be able to login to the dashboard and view all their results when they get them. They will be able to compare multiple years together and benchmark the data,” described Ginn. “Also, they can create a custom index [comprised of their herd’s selection traits] in addition to having the static indices. Further, they can manipulate and work with the data for information they want to make decisions off.”
“It would be terrific to give the flexibility for us to pick the traits we select for and are useful to our production,” Soto affirmed. “For us, scrotal circumference is a must!”
Additionally, IBBA aims to continuously improve upon current products available to producers and strives to meet the commercial cattlemen’s goals for genetic improvement. The Igenity Brangus DNA testing method is a newer technology available to Brangus producers that, Beckendorf stated, will “depend on how serious they will be about improving their operations.” Commercial cattlemen continue to desire other DNA solutions, technological advancements, and other production efficiencies.
“A critical trait for me is disposition, along with the other main traits provided,” Beckendorf said. Adaptation and heat tolerance are additional visual inspection traits that Brangus producers look at during evaluation that are difficult to measure.
“Length of hair impacts our program as it is very hot,” explained Soto. “We need animals that will first adapt then see if they will be able to perform. If they have the performance traits but cannot adapt, it is not useful. A key attribute judged by bull buyers is if there is long hair or the animal is not behaving well in the heat, they will not buy that bull no matter the genetics or pedigree.”
“I’m excited the association is taking a step forward in this [DNA] research and offering this [Igenity Brangus] to commercial breeders who aren’t necessarily members,” asserted Beckendorf.
“Overall, I would like to congratulate [IBBA] for adjusting and optimizing by staying in touch with the cattlemen and how you can make [Igenity Brangus] better and more pragmatic by knowing what [commercial cattlemen] are looking for,” Soto reaffirmed. “I would like to reinforce how important the heat tolerance factor is for us. [Talk among southern breeders about selection is] shifting toward more selection in heat tolerance. Performance from average daily gain (ADG) is leading the selection programs [Soto’s market]. However, in the American market, I believe [Igenity Brangus] will be very helpful against CAB® or other certified meat programs. This will help define the breed and the potential of the animals.”
IBBA has partnered with Allflex and Neogen GeneSeek in sponsorship for a promotional Igenity Brangus giveaway. Commercial cattlemen who purchase Brangus and Brangus-influenced bulls at selected spring sales will be placed into a drawing for a chance to win one Allflex tissue applicator, 25 TSUs, and 25 Igenity Brangus profiles. This opportunity will give cattlemen the chance to exercise the DNA and Igenity Brangus profiler process. Read more on page 16.
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