Maurice Boney: Does line breeding pay?
As a college student at Iowa State University in the late 1930s, Maurice Boney didn’t envision building a herd of high-quality cattle in Colorado. However, a series of events at that time brought him in contact with Dr. Jay Lush, then a prominent geneticist who had developed some theories about the benefit of line breeding. It was the guiding principle Boney would later use to develop his Irish Blacks and Irish Reds.
“Dr. Lush was a world-renowned geneticist at that time,” Boney says. “He hired Art Mullen, who was my high school ag instructor, to work in Dr. Lush’s research programs. Their offices were located next to each other and I stopped in to see Mullen whenever I had 30 minutes or more between classes. On numerous occasions Dr. Lush joined us. We always discussed genetics when he was there. His input on these numerous ‘chats’ supplied the genetic foundation I have followed in establishing the Irish Blacks breed.”
The principle Boney has used as his herd’s foundation was Lush’s premise that an unpredictable gene pool makes it impossible for beef producers to obtain consistent quality in their herd. Lush supported line breeding as opposed to crossbreeding, predicting that adding unknown genetic traits to an ever larger gene pool would cause beef quality to deteriorate over time.
“I’ve used line breeding, selecting the best of the best in my gene pool, for five decades now,” Boney says. “That foundational principle has guided me in developing Irish Blacks and Reds, a breed that has four decades of disciplined line-breeding behind it.”
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