Do you want to increase beef production? There will soon be an app for that

Sixteen different breeds and breed combinations are represented in the USMARC cattle herd. The variability of breed composition in the herd is evident in the varied appearance of the animals.
Photo by Mark Thallman / USDA-ARS

A team of Midwestern researchers, including scientists from the Agricultural Research Service at the US Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb., Are developing a web-based tool that will help beef producers select the best bull for their herds.

Called iGENDEC, for genetic decisions on the internet, the tool will give beef producers a way to compare bulls. They can then make selection decisions based on the data available from research studies and multiple genetic evaluation systems.

“The plan is that iGENDEC will be web-based to increase ease and likelihood of use,” said Larry Kuehn, research geneticist at USMARC. “This will provide economic rankings between the bulls that producers can choose from so that they can choose the one that would be most beneficial for their economic bottom line.”

Producers will enter their farm data – breed composition, average weaning weight, marketing program, feed costs, etc. – and iGENDEC will classify the bulls of several breeds according to what could improve the profitability of the herd. The program uses criteria that assess the economic impact of traits based on their expected returns or costs, Kuehn said.

The first tests showed promising results. The team used bull sale catalogs for iGENDEC alpha phase testing. With a quick glance in a single catalog, they saw a profit differential between two bulls of at least $ 20 per mating. “Since a bull could easily sire 50 to 100 offspring, this differential could result in a profit difference of at least $ 1,000 between the bulls,” Kuehn said. “We expect these differences to increase with more traits and greater variation between producers and herds. “

There are other genetic evaluation systems which provide their own selection indices; however, they are not suited to the environments, markets and types of production of individual producers. IGENDEC’s customizable system will improve these cues, Kuehn said.

The potential of iGENDEC can also extend from ranch to table. “Consumers may not see a direct result initially, but increased efficiency and profitability for producers will keep beef prices competitive,” Kuehn said. “But the tool could be adapted to meet consumer demands and beef markets, such as improved taste, safety and environmental impact. If consumer market forces dictate that they are valued and methods are developed to collect data and develop genetic prediction for these trait complexes, they could be added to iGENDEC.

iGENDEC will go into beta testing later this year and is expected to be available to beef producers in 2021.

The iGENDEC research team includes Principal Scientist Matt Spangler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Bob Weber, Kansas State University; Warren Snelling, Mark Thallman and Kuehn, USMARC; and Bruce Golden, of Theta Solutions. ??

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