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West: Matching selection practices with available resources

Matthew Garcia for Progressive Cattleman Published on 14 September 2018

As many producers in the western U.S. realize, a large component of their ability to remain profitable and sustainable comes down to how effectively they are able to maximize the limited resources available to them.

All too often, producers will purchase replacements or bulls because these individuals or their relatives were highly desirable in another production system. However, more times than not, these animals fail to have a certain degree of longevity and productivity in the desired system.

Below are two main reasons these animals are culled:

1. These animals are the product of multiple generations of selection to succeed in a particular production system with specific resources. These resources, production goals and production systems tend to be very different to the system, goals and resources the producer is trying to implement these new animals into.

2. Producers tend to focus only on limited information for selection, such as single-trait expected progeny differences or single-test variables. If the producer is buying a bull, and is only selecting based on one trait, then he or she runs the risk of all the other traits being incompatible with the production system.

Thus, the bull’s offspring will probably not be the most productive in that environment and will more than likely be culled, or the producer will have to allocate additional resources normally used by animals in that environment. This drives up production costs and decreases profitability.

So how do producers navigate this problem of incorporating the proper animals into their production system?

1. Producers need to know what resources they have, their variability and what their capabilities are.

2. Producers should critically evaluate how that animal was developed (production system and resources) and determine whether they have the resources for the animal to be productive in their operation.

3. Producers should evaluate all the traits important to their production system when making selection decisions – traits that will drive production and subsequently ensure the offspring produced are the most complete and efficient animals for the operation and its resources.

This fall, as many producers will be deciding which heifers to keep and which to cull, I would encourage them to evaluate all the traits that make a productive animal in that particular operation.

Also, producers shouldn’t be afraid to cull an animal that looks great but doesn’t fit the resources. Their production costs will be higher than compatible animals to remain in the system.  end mark

Matthew Garcia
  • Matthew Garcia

  • Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Utah State University
  • Email Matthew Garcia