• Beef Cross Breeding of Dairy and Beef Cows

      Keane, Michael G. (Teagasc, 2011-03-01)
      Summary The rationale for crossing dairy cows with beef bulls is to increase the beef productivity and value of the progeny. The proportion of dairy cows available for beef crossing is determined by the dairy herd replacement rate. The performance of cross-bred cattle is generally superior to the mean of the parent breeds because of heterosis. This is most pronounced for reproduction, maternal and calf survival traits. Crossing dairy cows with early maturing beef breeds (e.g. Angus, Hereford) has little effect on growth but improves carcass conformation and reduces feed intake. Crossing with most late maturing beef breeds also improves carcass conformation and reduces feed intake, but in addition, growth rate, kill-out proportion and carcass muscle proportion are increased. Cross breeding can have small negative effects on dam milk production, and subsequent reproduction can be impaired following a long gestation or difficult calving. There is little advantage in crossing with double muscled sire breeds (e.g. Belgian Blue, Piedmontese) compared with the larger conventional late maturing breeds (e.g. Charolais, Blonde d'Aquitaine). There are few effects of sire breed on meat quality.
    • Genetics and genomics of reproductive performance in dairy and beef cattle

      Berry, Donagh; Wall, E.; Pryce, J. E.; Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs and the Environment Strategic Research 2011–2016.; Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia; Dairy Futures Co-operative Research Council, Melbourne, Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2014-04)
      Excellent reproductive performance in both males and females is fundamental to profitable dairy and beef production systems. In this review we undertook a meta-analysis of genetic parameters for female reproductive performance across 55 dairy studies or populations and 12 beef studies or populations as well as across 28 different studies or populations for male reproductive performance. A plethora of reproductive phenotypes exist in dairy and beef cattle and a meta-analysis of the literature suggests that most of the female reproductive traits in dairy and beef cattle tend to be lowly heritable (0.02 to 0.04). Reproductive-related phenotypes in male animals (e.g. semen quality) tend to be more heritable than female reproductive phenotypes with mean heritability estimates of between 0.05 and 0.22 for semen-related traits with the exception of scrotal circumference (0.42) and field non-return rate (0.001). The low heritability of reproductive traits, in females in particular, does not however imply that genetic selection cannot alter phenotypic performance as evidenced by the decline until recently in dairy cow reproductive performance attributable in part to aggressive selection for increased milk production. Moreover, the antagonistic genetic correlations among reproductive traits and both milk (dairy cattle) and meat (beef cattle) yield is not unity thereby implying that simultaneous genetic selection for both increased (milk and meat) yield and reproductive performance is indeed possible. The required emphasis on reproductive traits within a breeding goal to halt deterioration will vary based on the underlying assumptions and is discussed using examples for Ireland, the United Kingdom and Australia as well as quantifying the impact on genetic gain for milk production. Advancements in genomic technologies can aid in increasing the accuracy of selection for especially reproductive traits and thus genetic gain. Elucidation of the underlying genomic mechanisms for reproduction could also aid in resolving genetic antagonisms. Past breeding programmes have contributed to the deterioration in reproductive performance of dairy and beef cattle. The tools now exist, however, to reverse the genetic trends in reproductive performance underlying the observed phenotypic trends.
    • Genetics of bovine respiratory disease in cattle: can breeding programs reduce the problem?

      Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2014-12)
      Genetics is responsible for approximately half the observed change in performance internationally in well-structured cattle breeding programs. Almost all, if not all, individual characteristics, including animal health, have a genetic basis. Once genetic variation exists then breeding for improvement is possible. Although the heritability of most health traits is low to moderate, considerable exploitable genetic variation does exist. From the limited studies undertaken, and mostly from limited datasets, the direct heritability of susceptibility to BRD varied from 0.07 to 0.22 and the maternal heritability (where estimated) varied from 0.05 to 0.07. Nonetheless, considerable genetic variation clearly exists; the genetic standard deviation for the direct component (binary trait), although differing across populations, varied from 0.08 to 0.20 while the genetic standard deviation for the maternal component varied from 0.04 to 0.07. Little is known about the genetic correlation between genetic predisposition to BRD and animal performance; the estimation of these correlations should be prioritized. (Long-term) Breeding strategies to reduce the incidence of BRD in cattle should be incorporated into national BRD eradication or control strategies.
    • Ranking of Sire Breeds and Beef Cross Breeding of Dairy and Beef Cows

      Keane, Michael G. (Teagasc, 2011-03-01)
      Summary There is general agreement across countries on the ranking of beef breeds for production and carcass traits. Differences between dairy and early maturing beef breeds in growth and slaughter traits are small, but the latter have lower feed intake and better carcass conformation. Late maturing beef breeds also have lower feed intake and better carcass conformation and in addition, have a higher growth rate, kill-out proportion and carcass muscle proportion. When factors such as age and fatness are accounted for, differences between breeds in meat quality traits are small. Differences amongst breed types in kill-out proportion can be explained by differences in gut contents (consequent on differences in feed intake), differences in the proportions of gastrointestinal tract and metabolic organs, differences in hide proportion, and differences in offal fats. Growth is an allometric, rather than an isometric, process. Some parts, organs and tissues grow relatively more slowly than the animal overall, and so become decreasing proportions over time, while others grow relatively faster and become increasing proportions. With increasing slaughter weight, the proportions of non carcass parts, hind quarter, bone, total muscle and higher value muscle decrease, while the proportions of non carcass and carcass fats, fore quarter and marbling fat all increase. Because of heterosis or hybrid vigour, the productivity of cross-bred cattle is superior to the mean of the parent breeds. While calving difficulty may be slightly higher (probably due to greater birth weight), calf mortality is much reduced in cross-breds. In addition, general robustness and growth rate are increased. There are additive effects of heterosis in the dam and the progeny. When cross-bred cows are mated to a bull of a third breed, >60 % of total heterosis is attributable to the cross-bred cows. The double muscling phenotype in beef cattle is due to the inactivated myostatin gene, but the inactivating mutation is not the same in all breeds and other genes also contribute to muscling. Compared to normal animals, double muscled animals have lower proportions of digestive tract, internal fats and metabolic organs. This explains their superior kill-out proportion. They also have a smaller hind shin that helps accentuate the muscling in the remainder of the 4 limb. There are similar degrees of muscular hypertrophy in both the hind and fore quarters. Muscle to bone ratio is about one third greater in double muscled than in normal carcasses. Piedmontese cattle with none, one or two mutated myostatin alleles were compared with normal Herefords and Limousins. In the absence of any mutated allele, Piedmontese were similar to Herefords, with one mutated allele they were similar to Limousins and with two mutated alleles they were immensely superior to Limousins. In fact, the response to the second mutated allele was about three times that to the first. If progeny approximated to the mean of the parent breeds, crossing a double muscled sire with a dairy or early maturing beef cow would result in cattle of similar characteristics to pure-bred late maturing beef breeds. This does not happen because double muscling is dependent on a homozygous myostatin genotype. The progeny of a common cow breed and normal late maturing, or double muscled, sire breeds have similar production traits.