Beef Cattle Genetic Evaluations
The production of high quality, healthy, and affordable beef begins by identifying the best animals for breeding. Improving cattle genetics through selective breeding can lead to animals that gain weight faster, produce more desirable meat, and are more tolerant of pests, diseases, and stressful environmental conditions. Breeders and producers need ways to evaluate the genetic merits of cattle and predict the traits and performance of their offspring. In the U.S., National Cattle Evaluation (NCE) programs are the main avenue for collecting, analyzing, and distributing genetic information. However, many breed associations find it difficult to fund NCE programs. Furthermore, when genetic evaluations are done through specific breed associations and independent breeders, it is difficult to establish broadly accepted breeding goals or adopt new approaches and technologies industry-wide. The research supporting these programs also tends to be disjointed, leading to overlapping studies and research gaps. All of these limitations make it difficult to adapt breeding practices to changes in beef production and marketing practices. Uncoordinated, inefficient NCE programs could reduce the economic viability, international competitiveness, and sustainability of U.S. beef cattle producers, leaving consumers without the affordable beef products they desire.