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Cattle losing environmental stressor defenses

Researchers are working to improve cattle hardiness in diverse climates.

The University of Missouri’s Jared Decker tells Brownfield increased genetic movement through artificial insemination has caused U.S. cattle populations to become more alike…

“In most respects that’s good because we’ve improved the genetic merit of these populations,” he said. “But the unfortunate side effect is that we’ve lost some of that environmental adaptation, those genetics that help the cattle deal with stressful environments.”

The MU research is developing cattle genetic evaluations based on different U.S. regions to better understand how cattle genotypes work in different environments.

Decker said cattle genetic and environmental mismatches, like thick hair in warmer climates, causes cattle producers up to $1 billion in yearly losses. He said the key is unlinking negative production traits like hearts conditioned for a different altitude from positive ones like better rate of gain so they can be altered.

“With the right genetic predictions, cattle breeders can break any of those genetic linkages and select for animals that have both great production and great environmental adaptation,” Decker said.

Decker said his team’s research shows improved accuracy of genetic predictions when accounting for genetics-by-environment effects, but it is still difficult to predict.

Jared Decker Interview

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