Developing Heifers Fills Pens, Creates SupplyTue, 12 Nov 2013 11:54:28 CST
In the face of a shrinking cow herd, the management of Kuner Feedlot in Colorado looks for creative ways to fill pen space. The 100,000-head JBS Five Rivers yard recently began a heifer development program that is far from ordinary. It combines genomic technology and the disposition scoring with traditional selection criteria.
As General Manager Nolan Stone explains, they purchased 4,000 angus-based heifers and then ran the Gene Max DNA test which measures gain and grade potential on commercial cattle.
“From there we selected the top 50 percent. Any heifer that scored above 50 on the Gene Max made it into the first cut of the program. The heifers that didn’t make it in fit in very well because we also have a natural program at Kuner and we bought all-natural calves to begin with, so those heifers went into our all-natural program.”
Colorado State University helped process the top half, assigning both docility scores and width and depth measurements. The remaining 1500 head were strategically mated to Zoetis 50K-tested AI sires.
“Most people look at the heifers and try to pick the best ones. We felt like this was a way to take that a step further we actually had genetic value on those heifers and they were selected solely on that to begin with. And then from there we pared down based on phenotypical characteristics,” Stone said.
The females were designed to produce efficient, high-grading calves. Stone said that should be a good base to build on.
“The idea would be you test those heifer calves out of these heifers we bred and select the top end and you can progress your genetic improvement very rapidly at that point.”
He hopes others will copy this example.
“It creates more dollars, really, for everybody in the line. The cow-calf producer should have a heifer that’s going to be more efficient, use less feed, raise a calf that gets bigger and puts more dollars in his pocket. The feedlot operator is going to have an animal that’s the same thing-he’s going to be efficient, eats less feed, gains faster and should bring back some carcass premiums on the grid.”
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