A new research paper debunks the myth the carcass quality must come at the expense of maternal function.
Virginia animal scientists reviewed nearly seventy individual studies in an effort to answer the question: has selection for marbling hurt cow herd productivity?
"In a nutshell what we found is that no it has not, and the marbling has a very smaller, if not insignificant, relationship with most of the traits that we associate with cowherd productivity," says Scott Greiner, Virginia Tech.
The work examines the relationships between marbling and traits like scrotal circumference, heifer puberty and calving ease, finding no correlation.
In general. as marbling increases so does no production, the authors say, but expected progeny differences and indexes allow ranchers to make selections that fit their environment.
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"I think the take home message, as we as we use the various tools to … come up with answers is balanced trait selection," Greiner says, based on market demands and consumer satisfaction data. "But we also know that the there's a variety of traits which impact our bottom line," he says.
Keeping all traits in mind does not mean that you can't make directional changes, however.
I think if you look at the tools that we have available through sire summary and identify bulls which will take us in a certain direction in trade simultaneously those bulls are available," Greiner says.
Producers can expect to see more directional change in carcass traits, which are highly heritable as compared to those reproductive traits, he says.