Automating replacement heifer selection — demonstration site

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $115,200
Commodity: Beef Cattle
Organization: Lakeland College
Investigator: Susan Markus

Genomics-based solutions have the transformative power to advance Alberta’s agriculture sector for greater productivity and performance.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Commercial beef cattle selection processes are typically subjective and focused on historical data with low reliance on new technology. Limited resources and low returns on investments in the cattle business mean automation, where economically viable, could be critical to success.

Surveys have shown reproductive issues represent the main reason for culling females, and often before reaching 3 years of age. Unfortunately, thorough reproductive assessment of female commercial beef cattle are often done visually, if at all — and yet, cows have the largest economic impact on costs of production with their year-round feed expenses necessitating the annual production of a marketable calf.

This research aims to evaluate and classify yearling heifers using genotypes and phenotypes as indicators of cow reproductive efficiency and longevity.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Reproductive efficiency can be improved through more detailed assessments of weaned heifers that identify below average performance and traits prior to exposing them to bulls for breeding. Packing molecular breeding values and indexes with phenotypes focused on traits of economic importance will provide livestock owners with a more complete picture of heifer value compared to providing these same results in isolation. Goals of this research include increasing productivity, efficiency, and sustainability.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Through a combination of student labs, guest lectures and field trips, this project will engage students as potential end users of this technology. Results will also be shared through industry advisory groups, research associations, social media posts, articles in agricultural publications, and consultations.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.