BIF Updates Decision Support Tool for Beef Cattle Selection: Now Includes Beef x Dairy Model

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Source: Beef Improvement Federation

The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) announces the major update of iGENDEC for constructing custom selection indexes. The model update now includes a Beef x Dairy production circumstance.

Beef x Dairy or dairy beef crossbreds are a growing part of the beef value chain with an anticipated 3+ million head produced in 2024. The sires that excel in this strictly terminal mating system can be different than sires used for traditional native beef systems. Holstein, Jersey and HoJo (Holstein x Jersey crosses) cows have much different carcass merit than native beef cows and benefit from the strategic use of breed complementarity to bring a high value calf to the beef chain.

While generalized selection indexes have been broadly available to commercial and seedstock producers for some time, a precision agriculture tool for building custom indexes has not been available to the industry until the implementation of iGENDEC.

iGENDEC is a web-based tool for constructing economically optimal selection indexes for specific production and marketing situations. iGENDEC allows index customization through adjustment of economic and production parameters to reflect unique enterprise and production scenarios, including sale-point of calves, current phenotypic means, economic parameters, breed(s), and investment planning horizon.

The iGENDEC product was developed with the financial support of a USDA NIFA grant with the aim of helping enterprises make genetic selection decisions that are specific to their unique circumstances. It was co-developed by a team of researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and Theta Solutions, LLC.

Dr. Matt Spangler at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln led the research and extension team that built iGENDEC and sees the system benefiting the beef and dairy industries in a number of ways. “It benefits dairy producers by helping them make beef sire selection decisions that are more profitable. It helps beef seedstock producers better advise their dairy customers and it can also allow them to make specific seedstock matings to produce beef sires that optimally match the genetic merit of the dairy cows to which they are mated,” Spangler says.

BIF enables the collaboration among beef producers and the extension and research communities to foster continued genetic improvement to benefit the entire beef value chain. Spangler explains, “iGENDEC is a tool that originated from collaboration among producers and scientists with the goal of transferring scientific knowledge into action. BIF hosting this software seemed like a natural fit. It allows for the sustainability of iGENDEC and broad industry access.”

Although the web-based system is user friendly, the developers strongly encourage that users possess a solid background in beef cattle genetics, especially index selection theory or seek advice from someone who does. This tool can be used to develop general-use indexes offered by beef breed associations or customized indexes for specific beef or dairy enterprises. iGENDEC can also be used as a teaching tool in the classroom and in extension programming efforts.

iGENDEC is made available to the industry in a variety of licensing arrangements. Funds collected through licenses support ongoing hosting and software development of the platform. A free 30-day trial option is available for users who wish to learn more about the potential applications. The software is made available to extension educators and instructors at colleges and universities at no cost. BIF member breed and state/provincial beef cattle improvement associations can access the software at reduced rates. More details about iGENDEC, including an educational video, are available at: beefimprovement.org/igendec.

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