by SUSAN MANN
Beef cattle researchers are doing an in-depth analysis of the animals’ liver function as part of a project spearheaded by the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association to improve feed efficiency.
The association received funding of $264,110 from the federal government Wednesday for the project.
Parliamentary secretary Pierre Lemieux, the MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, made the funding announcement on behalf of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at a Hillsburgh-area farm. He also announced funding of up to $827,050 for three research projects being done by the producer cooperative, BIO (Beef Improvement Ontario). The projects are aimed at increasing farmers’ understanding and use of genetic evaluations; improving genetic selection in beef and sheep using modern economic indicators and studying genetic traits to identify markers for improved carcass value and quality.
Richard Horne, Ontario Cattlemen’s policy adviser, says the beef cattle liver function study is being done at the New Liskeard agricultural research station through the University of Guelph. The project began in September 2012 and will be completed by October.
“The potential to identify and breed cattle with improved efficiencies will have long-term economic benefits,” Horne notes. “The more that we can utilize work being done in projects like this the quicker the downstream benefits will accumulate.”
Horne says they appreciate the government funding for projects like these ones because it enables the industry to identify the efficient animals and weed out the non-efficient ones. “The long-term benefit is a more efficient cow herd,” he says.
The industry needs continued investment in the study of feed efficiency and genomics “to see real economic gains,” he notes, adding the industry is already making gains in determining the most efficient animals.
Betty-Jo Almond, BIO customer service manager, says part of their work involves hosting webinars for farmers to show how records can be used to enhance management decisions. It also partners with Ontario Cattlemen’s to do presentations at producer meetings or to work with farmers one-on-one.
One of the BIO representatives’ demonstrations is to show farmers how they can harness RFID technology to collect genetic information and add it to the other data collected on each animal. In turn, all of that information is added into BIO’s information system where it’s turned into genetic evaluations that can be added to management reports.
Another project involves helping farmers with the pre-selection of bull evaluations. “If you can find an animal that can gain weight a lot faster with less feed than another animal, then you’ve got lower costs to produce that animal,” Almond says. Genetic evaluations “allow you to know that information sooner” than the current system of collecting the information on the animals’ progeny and evaluating them that way.
Using genetic evaluations enables farmers to know how animals will produce their progeny and how efficient they will be and that will save producers “a lot of money,” she says. “They can get rid of the cows that are not going to be producing and keep the ones that are.”
BIO is also developing a database of animals. “We can continue to add animals to that and evaluate them on a genomic level.” Almond says.
The federal government funding for these projects came from the Canadian Agricultural Adaption program. It runs from 2009 to 2014 and helps the agricultural sector seize new opportunities and respond to emerging challenges. BF