Selection of Production Traits in Hurting Herds

Production Traits in Hurting HerdsAs the years progress and we selectively breed herds of cattle even more, it could mean it will be a lot harder to breed even a few years from now, compared to today. A study from Ireland took over 156,000 beef cows and set some parameters to see how things have changed over the years. The results were a bit surprising, because no one thought this kind of selective breeding would end up hurting reproduction potential down the line.

All the cows were checked to be of the Bo Taurus breeding, as well as the following information collected about them: Age at first calving, Whether or not the cows calved in the first 42 days of the calving season, length of time between calving, and survival to next lactation after calving. There were also a number of performance traits that were tracked too.

With all of these measured a few correlations were discovered that provide some interesting insight into cows and their reproduction.

  1. Cows that calved at a later age for the first time also had longer calving intervals as well as weaker genetic material.
  2. Cows with shorter calving intervals stayed in herds longer and produced more cattle offspring, because it provided better genetic diversity to the herd.
  3. Taller, longer and wider cows were inferior genetic material because of the above two points.
  4. Increased muscularity in cattle also resulted in later first time calving and longer intervals between calving periods.

What all this means is that the taller, and more muscular cattle we have been breeding for years to get more meat off of them, has also resulted in breeding cattle that don’t function as well with breeding further down the genetic lines. This doesn’t bode well for people focusing and culling out certain traits when it comes to their cattle breeding.

That is why Flying H Genetics has always promoted multitrait genetic selection.  With proper genetic selection and the use of complimenting breeds combined with heterosis (crossbred vigor) we can maintain fertility and maternal traits while still increasing growth, muscle and carcass quality.