INHERIT Select: New technology helps select the best replacement heifers for your herd

A genomic tool to help cow-calf producers with crossbred cattle make more informed selection and breeding decisions
calendar icon 22 February 2023
clock icon 3 minute read

Kent Anderson, Director of Beef Genetics with Zoetis spoke with The Cattle Site’s Sarah Mikesell at the 2023 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

Current challenges facing cow-calf producers

“Cow calf producers have really been challenged this last year in many parts of the country with drought, higher feed costs, labor and many other things,” said Kent Anderson.

Due to these challenges, there has been a reduction in the size of the national beef cow herd which is now estimated at 28.9 million head, down 4% from last year and the smallest US herd in more than 60 years.

“There's a lot of opportunities for producers to build back their cow herds, using technology that enables them to select the most productive cows,” said Anderson.

New technology to find best replacement heifers

“Zoetis is really excited about this new product called ‘INHERIT Select’ because it provides all the information that traditionally has only been available to seed stock producers to the cow-calf producers,” said Anderson.

Anderson explained that DNA samples on a set of candidate replacement heifers can be taken which is input through the INHERIT evaluation. This analysis provides a broad spectrum of information that enables a better selection decision. It begins by placing an ear tag in the heifer’s ear (if not done already) and taking an AllFlex ear punch out of the ear, so the DNA is married to the animal’s identity. Then you submit the sample with the order form.

“There are four primary features of the INHERIT Select product,” said Anderson.

  • Genomic breed composition. There are 15 different breeds, and the program identifies what percent of each breed that individual heifer is made up of.
  • Sire identification. If the sires or the bull battery that produced the heifers are in the evaluation, the technology informs which bulls produced which females.
  • Trait predictions for genomic EPDs. The most powerful set of features are 20 different trait predictions in the form of an EPD.
  • Percentile rankings for traits and five economic indexes. What simplifies the analysis are indexes that are a marriage between the trait predictions and the economics associated with the costs and the value of production. Traits such as fertility, calving ease, growth, marbling, and feed efficiency impact the final product.

“When evaluating a pool of heifers, the producer can keep those that are going to make the most profitable cows,” said Anderson. “The ones that are going to make feeder cattle that will grow, convert and do a better job at the carcass level.”

Impact of INHERIT Select technology on production

Statistics show increasing beef production despite decreasing numbers of cows.

“On average, carcass weights have been increasing about five pounds a year for a number of years,” Anderson reported. “It's technologies like INHERIT Select that enable us to get more efficient across the whole spectrum of production.”

Upfront costs are $25 per head for the producer with an estimated 3:1 or 4:1 return on investment.

“It'll help the producer know more about the females entering their herd which in turn makes the producer a more informed bull buyer to accentuate the strengths and correct the weaknesses, and ultimately produce calves that are more profitable for feed yards,” concluded Anderson.

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