GeneSeek's John Paterson Swears by Genomic Testing as New Cornerstone of Herd Selection ToolsThu, 26 Jul 2018 11:28:20 CDT
Dr. John Paterson has had a storied career in the beef industry spanning several decades. It has been a career that he says has allowed him to meet many of the modern legends in the industry. Today, however, Paterson finds himself post-retirement, yet still working for Neogen’s Geneseek company as a territory manager covering Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. During the recent Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association’s 66th Annual Convention & Trade Show, Paterson was invited to attend as a featured speaker for the OCA’s Cattlemen’s College series to discuss the business of genetics. He sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn to review his advice offered producers during his presentation about what genetic selection tools are available and how to use them to breed better cattle. You can listen to that entire conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page. Paterson explained the premise upon which the genetic tools he offers his customers is based.
“What we’re trying to do is speed up generational intervals instead of taking four years to see if that bull was a good bull - let’s do it in one year,” he said. “We’re doing that by taking a peak under the hood so to speak, by saying what’s this animal look like in terms of average daily gain, calving ease, maternal calving ease direct, heifer pregnancy rate… We’re trying to help that rancher predict some of those things.”
While the collection of genomic data like this is relatively new to the industry, most producers will be more familiar with EPDs, or expected progeny differences. Both can be used independently to help producers make sound selection decisions, but when coupled together Paterson says the accuracy of the information is improved exponentially and should give the producer increased confidence in their decisions. During that process, one of the key traits Paterson advises producers look for is ‘stayability.’
“If I select this heifer, will this heifer’s offspring stay with me more than two years?” he stated. “Will she stay with me four, five…six years? That’s a huge one in terms of profitability. The longer you can keep that cow in the cow herd, the more profitable the herd should be.”
According to Paterson, this is a management strategy that seems to be catching on - and quickly. In fact, several of the major breed associations are actually adopting the technology to collect whole herd reporting on everything - heifers, cows and bulls. This is all being made possible by the lightning speed at which the technology is advancing.
“Now, I’ve got to tell you the technology is going fast,” Paterson remarked. “We are now predicting performance for a 9-day-old embryo. Talk about generational interval. We’re doing it in 9 to 10 days now versus waiting four years to see if I made the right decision on a heifer or a bull.”
And while Paterson whole-heartedly believes in this products’ value, he says too that it is only one tool in a balanced equation. He says producers should not rely solely on the data but should rather use it to make inferences about things a well-trained eye can’t see.
“I tell guys, when you’re making a selection, you’ve still got to use your eyes out there,” he said. “Genomics is going to give you the genetics, but your eye is still important out there.”
Dr. John Peterson was raised on a ranch in southwest New Mexico. He received his Ph.D. in beef cattle nutrition from the University of Nebraska, and from 1979 to 1983 was on the faculty of the Animal Science Department of the University of Missouri. He was a beef extension specialist at Montana State University and later became the Executive Director of the National Cattlemen’s Association. JP has received numerous industry awards from the American Society of Animal Science, including the Pfizer Animal Health National Extension Award and the Distinguished Service Award. JP is now the Montana, Idaho & Wyoming Territory Manager for Neogen. He and his wife make their home in Bozeman, MT.
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