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Past, Present, and Future of Beef Genetics: Part I

published: November 26th 2021
by: Dr. Joe C. Paschal
source: ICA Of Texas

In October, I spoke at the 2021 South Central Texas Cow Calf Clinic in Brenham on what I considered were the most important genetic events in beef cattle in the last 50 years, what were the most important events currently, and what might be the most important future events.
    In the past, keeping performance records on beef cattle was a new concept to beef cattle producers even though dairymen had been keeping milk and fat records on their cows for years. Some beef breed associations decided to require a weaning weight to register their cattle and one of the first was the Red Angus Association of America in 1954. Later the American Simmental Association would follow suit. All breeds collected these and other records, but these two were the first to require them. These records, when adjusted for age and sex of calf and age of dam were useful to compare animals within a purebred herd.
    In the early 20th century, the USDA, and likely the purebred beef cattle breed associations, got behind a program called “Stamp Out the Scrub Bull!”. A scrub was a mixed breed, likely with a lot of dairy influence since few commercial producers, especially small ones, purchased purebred bulls. As a result of this effort, many herds in Texas and other states were “graded up” to near straightbred percentages to make the cowherd more uniform and predictable in performance. Even Extension was called up to promote purchases of purebred bulls.
    However, in the 1940s and 50s the pendulum began to swing back as research at universities began to test the value and performance of many of the “new” breeds developed in the early to mid-1900s including Brahman, Beefmaster, Santa Gertru-dis, Brangus, Red Brangus, and others. The improved beef production of these breeds, especially in tropical and subtropical areas, renewed interest in plan-ned crossbreeding programs. In addition to these new breeds, planned or designed crosses of breeds selected for their best traits and the best animals had much higher levels of adap-tability, fertility, longevity, maternal ability, and weight gain (especially at weaning), than non-crossbred animals. Purebred cattle were still in demand, but commercial beef production embraced crossbreeding.
    The next major impact on beef cattle genetics was the introduction of the continental European beef breeds, initially Charolais, then Simmental, Limousin, etc. These breeds were to change the U.S. beef cattle population and beef production in the U.S. as never before within a few generations. The impact of those importations in the 1960s and 70s on US beef production was tremendous and is often overlooked.

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