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Selecting cattle for disease resistance

Gene Johnston 02/02/2012 @ 11:36am On the scene at the 2012 Cattle Convention, Nashville

Pop quiz: If you could buy a new herd bull that would “fix” your cow herd in one of these areas, which would you most desire?

A. Marbling score

B. Feedlot average daily gain

C. Feed intake

D. Weaning weight

E. Respiratory disease incidence

F. Carcass yield grade

  My guess is that if you’re a feedlot operator, you’re going to say average daily gain. And if you’re a cow-calf producer, you’re going to say weaning weight.

Good answers, but neither holds a candle, economically speaking, to the bull that can solve your herd health problems, particularly BRD (respiratory complex). A recent analysis by Alison Van Eenennaam of California-Davis says that the ability to select cattle for disease resistance will overpower everything else because of the tremendous cost of sick and dead animals. She shared her analysis at the Cattle Industry Convention this week.

Her analysis compared all of the above characteristics on a relative basis to the ability to select animals for yield grade. Here’s how they ranked by relative importance to yield grade:

Marbling: 2.6 times more valuable

ADG: 3.7

Feed intake: 4.6

Weaning weight: 5.7

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