Beef Cattle Selection and Genetics


Source: University of Arkansas

Animal Agriculture is one of the largest industries in the United States and is second to none in economic importance. It is very important that producers understand the type of animals that are most efficient and most valuable in production. The beef cattle industry is composed of six basic segments:

      1. Purebred Breeder
      2. Commercial Producer
      3. Stocker or Backgrounding Operations
      4. Cattle Feeder
      5. Beef Packer
      6. Retailer
  • The purebred breeder maintains seedstock to provide bulls and, occasionally, females for the commercial producer.
  • The commercial producer provides feeder calves and yearlings to the stocker operator who, in turn, furnishes the cattle feeder who provides the packer with finished cattle ready for slaughter.

The packer slaughters the cattle and provides the retailer with either dressed carcasses or wholesale cuts from these carcasses. The profits that accrue to all segments of the beef cattle industry depend on continued improvement in productive efficiency and carcass merit.

Major Performance Traits for Beef Cattle

All traits of economic value should be considered when selecting beef cattle. The major traits influencing productive efficiency of desirable beef are:

      • Reproductive Performance or Fertility
      • Maternal Ability
      • Growth Rate
      • Feed Efficiency
      • Body Measurements
      • Longevity
      • Carcass Merit
      • Conformation or Structural Soundness

The use of genetic prediction (EPD’s) is one of the most powerful tools in the hands of the beef cattle producer. It is dependent upon the producer’s ability to understand the use of EPD’s in selecting breeding stock with superior genetic merit to increase the proportion of genes having the desired effect on traits of economic importance.

The concept of an EPD is very easy to understand because it is truly the expected progeny difference in performance.

EPD’s are more valuable than individual performance records, within herd ratios or performance tests because all of these pieces of information are taken into consideration in calculating an EPD.

Although the methodology is complicated and the initial contribution of time is substantial, EPD’s are actually very convenient to use.


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