Selection of cattle in the past

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Ky hills
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Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Ky hills » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:37 am

This post is not intended to be an on the contrary to the recent genomic post. I am not trying to stir the pot, in light of many recent topics and posts, I have been asking my myself, how did we raise cattle before the rise of, AI, ET, EPD's and now Genomics?
I am not saying any of the aforementioned is negative, as I have utilized all of the above. My question comes along with my story in the cattle business. My parents backgrounded stocker calves, I had no first hand knowledge of a cow/calf operation until I jumped in head first, during my teens with some heifers and a bull. EPD's at that time were very new and primarily unheard of in the breed I was dealing with. I tried to soak up as much cattle knowledge as I could from the oldtimers, as well as folks associated with the breed some of which were on the cutting edge of technology for that time period.
Back to my question, In a sense we (cattle producers as a whole) are more modern as whole in our selection and practices using more modern management practices and products. Our cattle as a whole are seemingly ever changing I've seen 4 ft and 6ft tall and everywhere in between. Now we are selecting for carcass quality among other things. Are cattle really superior now as far as reproductive efficiency and productivity? It seems we now have many products aimed at maximizing those, among other things just really wondering if we are selecting and changing too much and moving forward and leaving some things behind. Maybe the same issues were just as prevalent decades ago and I am just unaware or perhaps management practices have made it more noticeable?
Again not knocking or rebutting any previous posts or individuals, just asking some views on some of the things that run through my mind. The way I see it cattle breeding is like leaving off on a long journey. Its important to start out with what you know you need, and some things just in case, along the way you can discard and add as needed, just being careful not to discard something that can't be easily acquired back somewhere down the road.



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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Son of Butch » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:26 am

Information/knowledge is power.
A thousand years before breed associations farmers were doing genetic selection.
The problem was gathering and dispersing information was lacking so that each generation would
end up reinventing the wheel through trial and error.
The formation of breed associations standardized breed traits and aided in recording and dispersing
information to at least give farmers a track to run on. Continuing on to the modern era...
The more information collected and dispersed the more power individual farmers have in making informed decisions to achieve their goals. Having a trusted source of information is imperative to success in making the right choices.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Bright Raven » Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:11 am

In the spirit of past breeding, what about the breeding that began thousands of years ago. When mankind was domesticating wild animals. Consider the breeding efforts and practices that went into capturing wild aurochs, breeding them and keeping them. Selecting for docility which was probably the most valued trait because what good is it to have a great carcass if you cannot keep the animal in an enclosure. Think about the thousands of years it took to branch out into other breeds. Archeologists tell us that aurochs were captured and domesticated in multiple locations. Apparently after docility, the breeders did not all covet the same qualities because in one place it lead to one breed and in another location it lead to a different breed. Much like today, no two groups of breeders all covet the same qualities and traits.
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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Ky hills » Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:57 am

Bright Raven wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:11 am
In the spirit of past breeding, what about the breeding that began thousands of years ago. When mankind was domesticating wild animals. Consider the breeding efforts and practices that went into capturing wild aurochs, breeding them and keeping them. Selecting for docility which was probably the most valued trait because what good is it to have a great carcass if you cannot keep the animal in an enclosure. Think about the thousands of years it took to branch out into other breeds. Archeologists tell us that aurochs were captured and domesticated in multiple locations. Apparently after docility, the breeders did not all covet the same qualities because in one place it lead to one breed and in another location it lead to a different breed. Much like today, no two groups of breeders all covet the same qualities and traits.
Yes agreed, I'm not in disagreement with anything that you have stated. In your last statement you bring up a point that I was getting at in broad round about way. " No two groups of breeders all covet the same qualities and traits." With that in mind, with the advancements in travel, communication, and ease and speed of access of information, along with AI breeding and ET to select animals isn't the gene pool somewhat narrowing thus in essence putting more of the same animal's genetics in more locations, bringing regional differences closer even if by small margins. I realize that there will likely always be a wide variation, however, it does seem to me that heavy across the board usage of particular bloodlines and or selections for specific traits can alter a large portion of the cattle population in either a positive or negative manner over time. With these new developments I believe we are on the cusp of some major changes in a hurry once it occurs, and with all of the aforementioned factors in place I don't see a lot of room for the variations to remain as viable as they are now, and that could effect future change. Sorry for the rambling, I know what I want to say just hard to put in words, then summarize, and have it even remotely make sense.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Bright Raven » Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:02 pm

Ky hills wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:57 am
Bright Raven wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:11 am
In the spirit of past breeding, what about the breeding that began thousands of years ago. When mankind was domesticating wild animals. Consider the breeding efforts and practices that went into capturing wild aurochs, breeding them and keeping them. Selecting for docility which was probably the most valued trait because what good is it to have a great carcass if you cannot keep the animal in an enclosure. Think about the thousands of years it took to branch out into other breeds. Archeologists tell us that aurochs were captured and domesticated in multiple locations. Apparently after docility, the breeders did not all covet the same qualities because in one place it lead to one breed and in another location it lead to a different breed. Much like today, no two groups of breeders all covet the same qualities and traits.
Yes agreed, I'm not in disagreement with anything that you have stated. In your last statement you bring up a point that I was getting at in broad round about way. " No two groups of breeders all covet the same qualities and traits." With that in mind, with the advancements in travel, communication, and ease and speed of access of information, along with AI breeding and ET to select animals isn't the gene pool somewhat narrowing thus in essence putting more of the same animal's genetics in more locations, bringing regional differences closer even if by small margins. I realize that there will likely always be a wide variation, however, it does seem to me that heavy across the board usage of particular bloodlines and or selections for specific traits can alter a large portion of the cattle population in either a positive or negative manner over time. With these new developments I believe we are on the cusp of some major changes in a hurry once it occurs, and with all of the aforementioned factors in place I don't see a lot of room for the variations to remain as viable as they are now, and that could effect future change. Sorry for the rambling, I know what I want to say just hard to put in words, then summarize, and have it even remotely make sense.
You make a point that is a fundamental concept of biological sciences.

In the natural world, populations of species have a very diverse genetic pool. That is what provides the ability to adapt to a wide range of variables.

Breeding stagnates/narrows the gene pool.
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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Ebenezer » Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:03 pm

Bakewell made out pretty well. I've got a book on the way that I have never read which ties into some of his work and influence.

I tend to believe that there was less movement of stock. That fit into either inbreeding, constantly returning to the same sources for breeding stock or mostly closed herd/flock type breeding. That allowed faster culling and hopefully better selection power. It was in plants and animals. Even in the 30's and 40's there were regional varieties of field corn and other crops based on the farmer maintaining his seeds and selecting. The less movement also established the divisions that we call breeds today.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by andybob » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:45 pm

http://sangacattle.webs.com/

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Bright Raven » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:47 pm

Thanks.
Excerpted from your article:
The team examined how small differences in the DNA sequences of those ancient cattle, as well as cattle living today, could have arisen given different population histories. Using computer simulations they found that the DNA differences could only have arisen if a small number of animals, approximately 80, were domesticated from wild ox (aurochs).

Most agree they came from Aurochs. Some abstracts suggest more than one location of origin.

Brookhill would like this, also excerpted from your link:
They were much bigger than modern cattle, and wouldn't have had the domestic traits we see today, such as docility. So capturing these animals in the first place would not have been easy, and even if some people did manage snare them alive, their continued management and breeding would still have presented considerable challenges until they had been bred for smaller size and more docile behavior."
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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Stickney94 » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:59 pm

Cattlemen and women have always relied on "data" in assessing cattle. 30 years ago that likely was a small number of data points (Birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, parentage, phenotype).

I recall selecting replacement heifers with my dad based entirely on phenotype, peer group comparison, and my dad's little notebook of birth date/momma/bw. How my dad made decisions based on the available data was entirely subjective.

In 2019 the cattle industry just has dozens more pieces of data. Perhaps TOO MUCH data. There was an old saying in Information Technology regarding data is just random items, the trick is to take data and turn it into usable "information."

EPDs/genomics can provide part of a the total data in making breeding decisions (or if you want it can make ALL your decisions, haha). That is also true of phenotype, growth data, parentage, breeder reputation, internet rumor and personal experience.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by cow pollinater » Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:31 pm

Believe it or not you can tell a whole lot about how a calf is designed to perform if you look at enough cattle. No EPD's needed.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Ky hills » Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:35 pm

cow pollinater wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:31 pm
Believe it or not you can tell a whole lot about how a calf is designed to perform if you look at enough cattle. No EPD's needed.
Cattle buyers do it everyday at the stockyards.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Bigfoot » Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:48 pm

cow pollinater wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:31 pm
Believe it or not you can tell a whole lot about how a calf is designed to perform if you look at enough cattle. No EPD's needed.
How I feel as well.
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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Son of Butch » Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:40 am

Ky hills wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:57 am
with the advancements in travel, communication, and ease and speed of access of information, along with AI breeding and ET to select animals isn't the gene pool somewhat narrowing thus in essence putting more of the same animal's genetics in more locations,
it does seem to me that heavy across the board usage of particular bloodlines and or selections for specific traits can alter a large portion of the cattle population in either a positive or negative manner over time.
....with all of the aforementioned factors in place I don't see a lot of room for the variations to remain as viable as they are now, and that could effect future change.
:nod:
Yes. Case in point Canadian Holsteins, 50 years ago if you wanted a real show cow, you'd get Canadian genetics if you wanted production American genetics (Chief and Elevation) Now everything for holsteins in Canada and much of Europe all trace back to American Chief and Elevation. For better or worse in the last 50 years there has been a huge reduction in the gene pool of holsteins world wide.

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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Bright Raven » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:27 am

Ebenezer wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:03 pm
Bakewell made out pretty well. I've got a book on the way that I have never read which ties into some of his work and influence.

I tend to believe that there was less movement of stock. That fit into either inbreeding, constantly returning to the same sources for breeding stock or mostly closed herd/flock type breeding. That allowed faster culling and hopefully better selection power. It was in plants and animals. Even in the 30's and 40's there were regional varieties of field corn and other crops based on the farmer maintaining his seeds and selecting. The less movement also established the divisions that we call breeds today.
That is spot on with the concepts held by evolutionary anthropologist. Anthropologists who study the evolutionary history of hominids - recall Dr. Louis Leakey - who study early man and the domestication of food crops and animals, the methods of breeding, etc.

The domestication of crops and animals accelerated in Mesopotamia on the rivers - Tigris, Euphrates. If you consider the populations of domestic animals were small in those times, they were forced to breed from small populations. There was a lot of culling, inbreeding and line breeding. They rapidly took plants and animals with broad gene pools and narrowed them down. The gene pools were deliberately stagnated to contain only the desirable genes.

Here is a very fundamental proof. If you turned a herd of Angus cows out in the original environment with the ancestral aurochs, there is no way their narrow gene pool would allow them to compete.

The breeding of dogs is often the classic example used in Modern Evolutionary biology of narrowing the gene pool. It also demonstrates the range of phenotypes possible in one species. It is absolutely amazing. Think about how many breeds of dogs are the result of one species - Canis lupus!
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Re: Selection of cattle in the past

Post by Ebenezer » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:52 am

I will add one thing on the early pioneers of animal selection, husbandry, science or whatever you want to call it. I think there were more differences in the whole population of animals at the first efforts of the improvement movement. The better animals, however you term "better", were easier to identify and the first generations could show faster improvement. There are still minor breeds in the world and if you see some that are in no program of improvement you have to wonder what possesses people to own some of them. They are poor quality in many ways. So, not putting the pioneers down, but the changes could be more obvious and amazing. This would be in cases of linebreeding or outcrossing.

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