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Grass-fed Beef Cattle Genetics 101

edrsimms

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I plan to take you through the Genetics of Grass-fed Beef, the Three phases of Operation, Forage Nutrition and Plant Physiology, Grass-finishing, Processing and Economics.

From my earlier post, I was trying to see just how many people were bucket dependent in this forum and my statistics show that 97% of the people using this board are indeed bucket-dependent cattle raisers.

The most lasting damage of the massive grain-feeding that has been done in this country is what has been done to our cattle’s genetic make-up. Very few stock-raisers realize just how bad our genetic situation is:
The shift of late maturing, growthy cattle have been devastating to cow/calf producers because it has destroyed fertility and by restoring fertility we automatically restore the genetics that will finish on grass.

Cows that have high reproductive rates are consistently moderate milkers.

Cows we should be selecting for include those with a lower body maintenance cost and:
Lower in milk production
Low in visceral organ weight
Low in body lean mass
High in body fat mass
All these traits combined = high fertility cows

Fertility many say is not thought to be heritable because the bulls used by commercial cattlemen have not been subject to the same strict culling criteria as brood cows have and many of the traits that seedstock producers select for are in direct opposition to the production of highly-fertile bulls.

When highly fertile cows are bred to highly fertile bulls – heritability is indeed significant and if no feed supplementation is employed, significant genetic progress can be made through selection for fertility and culling.

The heart of animal genetics is the genetic adaptation of the animal to it’s environment, which is inline with my rule that many people do not select the right type of animal for their available forage base < a big problem in all operations.

What causes sub-par fertility in bulls?
What your seedstock supplier fails to mention:
Buying a “performance tested” grain-fed bull often isn’t what you would want in a potential herd sire as there is a strong correlation between high grain-fed gains and low fertility. There is also a correlation with large frame size and low fertility.
Studies have shown that bulls grown off on grain had a lower semen count with greater than 20% abnormalities.
Studies in grass-fed or forage tested bulls showed a live semen count in the 80 to 90% range on average with only 2-3 percent abnormalities.
Grain-fed fattening of Bulls causes even more problems like fat buildup in the neck of the scrotum that insulates the testes and the heat exchange system in the spermatic cords become ineffective with the presence of fatty tissue, causing a reduction of sperm mobility and an increase in abnormalities.
The bottom line is as long as fat bulls top the sales; seedstock producers will continue to sell grain-fattened sub-fertile bulls.

In cows, endocrine imbalance has an influence on the reproduction and can be caused by the overfeeding of grain.

Phenotype
1. Never buy in brood stock from outside your own ranch’s latitude
2. In the south choose an animal with a thicker hide because those animals are able to better tolerate the heat.
3. Color in the south --- Red
4. Selecting for reproductive performance (rp) will naturally produce an animal that will mature early, fatten early and have a high value carcass yield.
5. Use only ultra-sounded bulls for tenderness, marbling and rib eye shape
6. Smaller frame cows: mature weights from 1000 to 1250
7. Choose a docile breed
8. Select for body maintenance an rp.

Genetics of grass-fed beef cattle just hits the high points and a good place to begin.
Next the three phases of the operation.
 

brandonm_13

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I have an issue with number one. Lattitude is too broad for me. I've seen some areas with my lattitude that could be considered very dry or very wet(in relation to my own, or very hot or very cold. And some still are extremely high or low elevation, or extremely humid or have a severe lack of humidity. I do agree with the thinking, but I think it's just too broad a statement. But otherwise I agree. ;-)
 

IluvABbeef

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I do too, with number one. I like Bez's suggestion, "never buy cattle outside of a 100 mile radius". Although, sometimes there can be an exception to this, especially if you can't find any stock within that radius.

But another point that isn't clear to me is the selection of quote "higher body fat mass". Ed, you go on to say that excess fat isn't good for breeding stock because of lower fertility, fat deposits causing less sperm to be produced in the bull, but I didn't see anything for cows. The reason I mention this is because there should also be cause for concern for having cows that are too fat, or heifers that get fat too fast, even if it's on a diet that contains no grain but is still high in energy content. This is because of the concerns with lack of milk production, as well as problems in breeding and calving. Also, selecting for calves that put on more fat than muscle is something that nobody likes to work around, because, for one, that fat has to be cut off upon butchering, and two, you're not going to get as much meat off the carcass as you would if the calves are either fed right or not too early maturing.

I do agree with having moderate framed cows, as well as docility (a definate biggee).

Now, your second point also has me in a knot: I thought that cattle adapted to a hot, humid climate were thin skinned? Perhaps I missed something there..
 

brandonm_13

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I think I can answer those fairly adquately. Thick skin is like the insulation in the house. It keeps the temperature in and the temperature out as separate as it can. Brahman cattle have thin skin but have a loose hide, so heat dissipates. The also have very large sweat glands. Bos Taurus cattle havetight skin, so the skin that is the thickest has the most "insulating" properties. I think the South Devon has the thickest skin of any British breed, which is fitting since they were developed the farthest south.

As far as fat goes. I look at it this way. You don't want a fat cow, but you do want one that can fatten EASILY. Lets say you have three cows all on the same pasture. One falls apart without grain. One does okay, but you could definately see improvement with grain. And the last gets roly poly just on the forage available. The third cow produces the most beef the easiest in a system where there wasn't any grain to prop them up. Now if it was reversed and grain was fed to them, the first one that fell apart on grass would probably look the best. The one in the middle would look better, but not as much as the first one. And the last roly poly cow now would be waaaay too fat. We are discriminating against them at the sale barn because they will be wasty in the feedlot, but if they never saw a feedlot, they would be exactly what we are looking for. And even though they would be wasty in the feedlot, they would probably be prime.
 

Jovid

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edrsimms":3xkln3d9 said:
I plan to take you through the Genetics of Grass-fed Beef, the Three phases of Operation, Forage Nutrition and Plant Physiology, Grass-finishing, Processing and Economics.

From my earlier post, I was trying to see just how many people were bucket dependent in this forum and my statistics show that 97% of the people using this board are indeed bucket-dependent cattle raisers.

The most lasting damage of the massive grain-feeding that has been done in this country is what has been done to our cattle’s genetic make-up. Very few stock-raisers realize just how bad our genetic situation is:
The shift of late maturing, growthy cattle have been devastating to cow/calf producers because it has destroyed fertility and by restoring fertility we automatically restore the genetics that will finish on grass.

Cows that have high reproductive rates are consistently moderate milkers.

Cows we should be selecting for include those with a lower body maintenance cost and:
Lower in milk production
Low in visceral organ weight
Low in body lean mass
High in body fat mass
All these traits combined = high fertility cows

Fertility many say is not thought to be heritable because the bulls used by commercial cattlemen have not been subject to the same strict culling criteria as brood cows have and many of the traits that seedstock producers select for are in direct opposition to the production of highly-fertile bulls.

When highly fertile cows are bred to highly fertile bulls – heritability is indeed significant and if no feed supplementation is employed, significant genetic progress can be made through selection for fertility and culling.

The heart of animal genetics is the genetic adaptation of the animal to it’s environment, which is inline with my rule that many people do not select the right type of animal for their available forage base < a big problem in all operations.

What causes sub-par fertility in bulls?
What your seedstock supplier fails to mention:
Buying a “performance tested” grain-fed bull often isn’t what you would want in a potential herd sire as there is a strong correlation between high grain-fed gains and low fertility. There is also a correlation with large frame size and low fertility.
Studies have shown that bulls grown off on grain had a lower semen count with greater than 20% abnormalities.
Studies in grass-fed or forage tested bulls showed a live semen count in the 80 to 90% range on average with only 2-3 percent abnormalities.
Grain-fed fattening of Bulls causes even more problems like fat buildup in the neck of the scrotum that insulates the testes and the heat exchange system in the spermatic cords become ineffective with the presence of fatty tissue, causing a reduction of sperm mobility and an increase in abnormalities.
The bottom line is as long as fat bulls top the sales; seedstock producers will continue to sell grain-fattened sub-fertile bulls.

In cows, endocrine imbalance has an influence on the reproduction and can be caused by the overfeeding of grain.

Phenotype
1. Never buy in brood stock from outside your own ranch’s latitude
2. In the south choose an animal with a thicker hide because those animals are able to better tolerate the heat.
3. Color in the south --- Red
4. Selecting for reproductive performance (rp) will naturally produce an animal that will mature early, fatten early and have a high value carcass yield.
5. Use only ultra-sounded bulls for tenderness, marbling and rib eye shape
6. Smaller frame cows: mature weights from 1000 to 1250
7. Choose a docile breed
8. Select for body maintenance an rp.

Genetics of grass-fed beef cattle just hits the high points and a good place to begin.
Next the three phases of the operation.

Sounds like you are refering to Red Poll cattle :D
 

brandonm_13

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That's exactly what I thought Jovid. That's the main reason I"m interested in them. That and they are very appealing to the eye.
 

dun

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I'm just glad that someone has finally come up with a on size fits all method of raising cattle
 

Red Bull Breeder

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Just wait Dun we haven't heard it all yet! I am just a foaming and a fuming to no just what breeds of cattle will get the job done.I am pretty sure my old Limis just won't cut the mustard.But then agin i am thinking edrsims cattle won't do much better eating fescue and persimmon bushes.
 

IluvABbeef

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brandonm_13":3lxhw4rx said:
I think I can answer those fairly adquately. Thick skin is like the insulation in the house. It keeps the temperature in and the temperature out as separate as it can. Brahman cattle have thin skin but have a loose hide, so heat dissipates. The also have very large sweat glands. Bos Taurus cattle havetight skin, so the skin that is the thickest has the most "insulating" properties. I think the South Devon has the thickest skin of any British breed, which is fitting since they were developed the farthest south.

As far as fat goes. I look at it this way. You don't want a fat cow, but you do want one that can fatten EASILY. Lets say you have three cows all on the same pasture. One falls apart without grain. One does okay, but you could definately see improvement with grain. And the last gets roly poly just on the forage available. The third cow produces the most beef the easiest in a system where there wasn't any grain to prop them up. Now if it was reversed and grain was fed to them, the first one that fell apart on grass would probably look the best. The one in the middle would look better, but not as much as the first one. And the last roly poly cow now would be waaaay too fat. We are discriminating against them at the sale barn because they will be wasty in the feedlot, but if they never saw a feedlot, they would be exactly what we are looking for. And even though they would be wasty in the feedlot, they would probably be prime.

Alright, that clears things up. Thanks. :)

Now for what breeds do best: I'm betting anywhere betwen Red Polls and Herefords. ;)
 

novatech

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When highly fertile cows are bred to highly fertile bulls – heritability is indeed significant and if no feed supplementation is employed, significant genetic progress can be made through selection for fertility and culling.
I agree with the genetic selection but find no connection with the grass/grain supplementation correlation.
I do not see the correlation between fast/slow maturing cattle and fertility.
I do not understand what you mean by high in fat mass makes for better fertility and yet fat kills sperm?
Cows that have high reproductive rates are consistently moderate milkers.
:???: I have seen dairy breeds consistently produce a calf a year.
Low in visceral organ weight.
Do you mean cattle with less capacity?
4. Selecting for reproductive performance (rp) will naturally produce an animal that will mature early, fatten early and have a high value carcass yield.
Sorry. I know of to many herds that would totally blow this statement out of the water.
5. Use only ultra-sounded bulls for tenderness.
I do not understand how ultrasound tests for tenderness.
7. Choose a docile breed.
Choose docile cattle within your breed. But what does that have to do with fertility?
I do not supplement my cattle other than to gentle down some heifers and bulls after weaning. About 2 lbs per head per day.
I beleave in cattle that can make it on the pasture and produce a fast maturing calf per year.
I was raised on grass fed beef and love it.
Fertility has no connection with many of the things you describe. Fertility is genetic and should be the first on the agenda when making selections for a herd. There is nothing wrong with selecting for these other traits but claiming that it makes for more fertile cattle is nothing more than propaganda being put out by promoters.
Just my openion.
 

edrsimms

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brandonm_13":a8beq1mz said:
I think I can answer those fairly adquately. Thick skin is like the insulation in the house. It keeps the temperature in and the temperature out as separate as it can. Brahman cattle have thin skin but have a loose hide, so heat dissipates. The also have very large sweat glands. Bos Taurus cattle havetight skin, so the skin that is the thickest has the most "insulating" properties. I think the South Devon has the thickest skin of any British breed, which is fitting since they were developed the farthest south.

Thanks Brandonm_13 that is correct................... Ed
 

edrsimms

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dun":29rny79h said:
I'm just glad that someone has finally come up with a on size fits all method of raising cattle
Dun,
Keep reading when I get to the economics -- you will then understand---completely
Ed
 

edrsimms

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anymore questions>? if not I will move on to the 3 phases of operation. If you were waitng for me to name some breeds for you, that isnt going to happen- do your own research.
 

edrsimms

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novatech":z6babous said:
When highly fertile cows are bred to highly fertile bulls – heritability is indeed significant and if no feed supplementation is employed, significant genetic progress can be made through selection for fertility and culling.
I agree with the genetic selection but find no connection with the grass/grain supplementation correlation.
Using sub-fertile bulls (those so-called performance tested grain fed bulls) in your cow herd is the connection
I do not see the correlation between fast/slow maturing cattle and fertility.
Grain fed genetics is the correlation
I do not understand what you mean by high in fat mass makes for better fertility and yet fat kills sperm?
High fat mass in the broodcow / fat accumulation in the scrotum of grain-fed bulls ruins the normal heat exchange system
Cows that have high reproductive rates are consistently moderate milkers.
:???: I have seen dairy breeds consistently produce a calf a year.
Yes, but dairy cattle and beef cattle nutrition are VASTLY different and if we expected dairy cattle to produce 100 lbs of milk per day and breed back on time on bahia grass, milk would be $100/gallon, you are talking apples and oranges here and it is irrelevant
Low in visceral organ weight.
Do you mean cattle with less capacity?
Normally, when I don not understand a word I see in text I look it up because being able to understand what is written requires and increase in your vocabulary at times, but here is a link that should help you understand--- as this is nothing new ------http://www.angusjournal.com/ArticlePDF/1095_OptimumCow.pdf

4. Selecting for reproductive performance (rp) will naturally produce an animal that will mature early, fatten early and have a high value carcass yield.
Sorry. I know of to many herds that would totally blow this statement out of the water.
Brandon says this best in his earlier post about 3 types of cattle and grass fed producers choose cattle that will do well on grass with no supplementation

5. Use only ultra-sounded bulls for tenderness.
I do not understand how ultrasound tests for tenderness.
Yes this is and has been being done for quite some time/ here is a few websites of cattle producers I know who do an outstanding job in this category
http://sustainableranching.com/bull_sale.html
http://www.deewallherefords.com/news.htm


7. Choose a docile breed.
Choose docile cattle within your breed. But what does that have to do with fertility?
This post was about genetics and fertility was only one of the subjects mentioned overall

I do not supplement my cattle other than to gentle down some heifers and bulls after weaning. About 2 lbs per head per day.
I beleave in cattle that can make it on the pasture and produce a fast maturing calf per year.
I was raised on grass fed beef and love it.
Fertility has no connection with many of the things you describe. Fertility is genetic and should be the first on the agenda when making selections for a herd. There is nothing wrong with selecting for these other traits but claiming that it makes for more fertile cattle is nothing more than propaganda being put out by promoters.
Just my openion.
All I can tell you is to keep reading
 

novatech

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http://en.mimi.hu/biology/viscera.html
When I don't understand a word I look it up. You obviously did not. Just because somebody else wrote it don't make it gospel.
As far a docile. Your entire post deals with nothing but production. Why would anyone think that this one line you excluded from fertility.
Ultrasound; Please show me any research that indicates it can distinguish in any degree of tenderness. Sounds like pure marketing and it sounds as if it works. Now the DNA testing may help a little but they still have a long way to go.
I have also seen plenty of high milk producing beef cows that produce a calf per year.
I am in no way cutting down your selection criteria for cattle. As a matter of fact I agree with most of it, except the gutless wonders( small viscera organs) I am just saying that selecting this type of animal is no guarantee of fertility. No way No how. It is total BS.
 

dun

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edrsimms":2yyj2iz5 said:
dun":2yyj2iz5 said:
I'm just glad that someone has finally come up with a on size fits all method of raising cattle
Dun,
Keep reading when I get to the economics -- you will then understand---completely
Ed
I can hardly wait
 

TexasBred

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dun":i55iaoyy said:
edrsimms":i55iaoyy said:
dun":i55iaoyy said:
I'm just glad that someone has finally come up with a on size fits all method of raising cattle
Dun,
Keep reading when I get to the economics -- you will then understand---completely
Ed
I can hardly wait


That means "get your wallet out, sit down and listen....I'm preaching". :lol2: :lol2: :lol2:
 

grannysoo

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dun":jils751k said:
edrsimms":jils751k said:
dun":jils751k said:
I'm just glad that someone has finally come up with a on size fits all method of raising cattle
Dun,
Keep reading when I get to the economics -- you will then understand---completely
Ed
I can hardly wait

Come on you ole' dog. It's time for you to learn the "new" tricks! :mrgreen:
 

edrsimms

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novatech":1sqgdbo3 said:
http://en.mimi.hu/biology/viscera.html
When I don't understand a word I look it up. You obviously did not. Just because somebody else wrote it don't make it gospel.
As far a docile. Your entire post deals with nothing but production. Why would anyone think that this one line you excluded from fertility.
Ultrasound; Please show me any research that indicates it can distinguish in any degree of tenderness. Sounds like pure marketing and it sounds as if it works. Now the DNA testing may help a little but they still have a long way to go.
I have also seen plenty of high milk producing beef cows that produce a calf per year.
I am in no way cutting down your selection criteria for cattle. As a matter of fact I agree with most of it, except the gutless wonders( small viscera organs) I am just saying that selecting this type of animal is no guarantee of fertility. No way No how. It is total BS.

You are welcome to your opinion but I wrote these words and if you can find literature that disputes them --bring it on. As far as not understanding my post --it is up to you to do your own research to find the answers to them --not mine.
Actually by selection--- based on types of cattle that perform well on forage I am increasing my fertility in my cattle, because grain supplemented cattle have shown with a dependency on grain a decrease in fertility.

Now I have already given you some good info in my earlier reply ---go read it, learn it and then come back and ask a question if you have one.
Bottom line is you have to do your own research and not depend on others to do all your work for you. Go read about Ultra-sound, go read about Tenderness Scores, Go ready about Igenity, Go read about the process of selection and culling by Phenotype and how Igenity can help you learn to cull based on Genotype-- go learn --then come back so you are capable of having a discussion on these topics.
Ed
 

edrsimms

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The Grass-fed cow/calf operation

Cow/calf
The mature beef cow can utilize relatively low quality forage for most of the year as long as her calving is timed so she can put on body fat reserves before calving. Back fat becomes butter fat in the calf’s milk and bypasses the rumen where it provides a slow release protein and energy source. The idea that a mature cow needs any supplementation other than forage is ludicrous. A cow’s highest nutritional requirement all year is during peak milk production 2-3 months post-calving. If your forage base (availability of high quality forages) coincides with this time of high nutrition then there is no issue. Summer and winter annuals as well as perennial legumes assure success. The right genetics, the right forage base and the ability to manage forage utilization are key.

In the Bermuda grass / bahia belt grasses peak in their annual forage growth by the longest day of the year ---June 21 although during a wet Spring this can be extended to July 4th. These same forages while green in March and April are low in DM and growing slowly and can starve an early lactating cow to death. This is where forage utilization and /or manipulation plays a key role in the success for producers calving in the late winter (Feb). The forage chain must be established to compensate for this lack of nutrition.

I plan to talk about the forage chain in detail later.

Fall calving requires you have in place a forage chain or you have manipulated your forage base with winter annuals and/or perennial cool season legumes. This takes a little more management than the feed bucket and some producers just don’t have the understanding of forages or land and forage base to do this effectively.

In the fescue belt, fall calving can be done if the producer has a firm grasp of stockpiling. On non-infected fescue, spring calving is better because it returns more to the land base because the cows consumption is in sync with the seasonality of production and this also allows for a higher stocking rate.

Plant Physiology
During the highest nutritional requirement all year a cows forage base must be high in digestibility and high in soluble carbohydrates. This requires an understanding of forages and these distinctions are classified by plant species, stage of growth and level of soil mineralization. Ex: Soil Ca is directly correlated to the soluble carbohydrate level in your grass.

Ruminant nutrition--- There are people with Ph.D’s that don’t fully understand this topic.


Bottom line:
1. You must have some grass-fed genetics
2. You must choose a phase of operation that best suits your forage base.
3. You must fully understand the forage chain
4. You must fully understand plant physiology
5. You must somewhat understand ruminant nutrition.
 

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