Members of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics team saw first-hand the cutting edge of research and development in the North American beef industries on a study tour for the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme.
The INZB group joined representatives of New Zealand’s major beef cattle organisations including Performance Beef Breeders NZ, Angus New Zealand, NZ Herefords, AngusPro NZ, New Zealand Beef Shorthorn Association and Simmental NZ on the visit to Canada and the United States.
The group attended the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) 2023 Research Symposium and Convention in Calgary, Canada, in early July before a whistle-stop tour of seven US states visiting farms, universities, research facilities and businesses.
Dan Brier, General Manager of Farming Excellence at B+LNZ, said the genetics team picked up some key insights including learning about the scale of the Canadian and US sector, especially the research and allied industries around farming, the vast amount of genetic science research being undertaken and the increasing availability and decreasing cost of new technology to benefit the industry.
“Overall, the study tour was an incredibly valuable opportunity to learn more about international beef cattle genetics to support our mission to improve the profitability and sustainability of New Zealand’s beef industry.
“We met with providers of both single and multi-breed genetic evaluations, visited research and education programmes and talked to breeders who provide the world’s leading sires.
“It was really interesting to see the impressive collaboration between universities, commercial companies, farmers and breed societies. Everyone is united to tackle the tough challenges in the industry. They really understand that they can co-operate for the good of the industry at the research level while still being in competition when it comes to selling bulls.”
In Colorado, the group visited Colorado State University, the Colorado State Research Ranch and the Leachman Cattle operation.
Topics discussed ranged from methane emissions - the university is seeing some heritability for that - to work on genomic evaluation, and the growing trend for beef-on-dairy.
At Kansas State University, the team learned about efficiency research work. The university has 1,000 students plus 100 post-grads dedicated to animal science, with methane emissions and maternal fertility growing areas of focus.
There was also a visit to the Gardiner Angus Ranch in Kansas, a 48,000-acre seedstock operation which sells more than 2,500 breeding bulls a season from its state of the art breeding centre.
A highlight was stopping at the United States Meat Animal Research Centre (USMARC) in Nebraska and its 8,000 cow multibreed herd. The team learned about the huge amount of data held by the facility, including around hard to record traits.
The centre focuses on the 18 most popular breeds in the US, which includes all of New Zealand’s main beef breeds. Its Germplasm Evaluation programme is the world’s longest running beef research project. Begun in 1969, it compares the genetic influences of purebred and crossbred cattle and has created billions of dollars in economic benefit for the livestock industry.
In Missouri, the group visited the American Angus Association, where they were particularly interested in the genotype-phenotype balance in the association’s evaluation as well as seeing the support they provide to youth involved in the industry. Missouri is also home to Vytelle, which specialises in providing cutting edge reproductive technology and apparatus for calculating feed efficiency and weight gain measurements.
In Houston, Texas, they met with the team at ST Genetics, a company specialising in the field of reproductive genetics – including a state of the art DNA lab offering programmes including embryo production and genomic testing based off their semen sexing technology.
INZB is supported by B+LNZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund and the New Zealand Meat Board. For more information about the programme, please visit the INZB website. You can also watch the study tour’s video diaries by visiting the B+LNZ Genetics Facebook page.