Research reigns at 2014 BIF convention

Maria Tussing
Assistant Editor
New officers were elected at the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation Annual Convention in Lincoln, Neb. Steve Munger, Mansfield, S.D. is president, Joe Cassady, Brookings, S.D. is executive director and Craig Bieber, Leola, S.D. is vice-president.

Forget the weather. When the Beef Improvement Federation convenes, the small talk casually incorporates words like “genomics,” “heterosis,” “recombinant,” and “selection index.” This annual meeting that brings together researchers, allied industry businesses and producers has a dual purpose–to inform producers of the latest research findings, and to tell the researchers what the producers need to know.

Matt Spengler, extension beef specialist and animal geneticist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, organized this year’s conference, which took place in Lincoln June 18-21. “Our goal was to provide cutting-edge research that a wide audience could appreciate and feel like they were able to take something away from,” he said. The theme of the meeting was “Attention on Novel Traits: Needed or Novelty.”

While some sessions went into detail about the genetic heritability of certain traits, and the studies that have helped scientists further their understanding of how cows work, other sessions focused on the importance of knowing and managing costs. Some sessions gave producers tools to take home and apply today, and others gave glimpses of what may be possible someday–like breeding cattle for higher nutritional value.

Researchers heard that producers want simple solutions. They want to know if the bulls they buy are going to take their cow herds where they want to go. Seedstock producers want tools that help their customers find the solutions–not just the genetics–they are looking for.

“I hope people learned about perhaps different management strategies for developing replacement heifers, or learned about things from an economic perspective that they should contemplate for a commercial cow-calf business,” Spengler said. “We covered some of the research in feed efficiency, the healthfulness of beef. The tech committee showed that the generation of EPDs is evolving and we’re including more traits and improving the accuracy of our predictions all the time.”

The convention brought together more than 450 people, including 38 from foreign countries like South Africa, Ireland and Argentina.

“This provided not only useful and timely information, but a forum that allowed people engaged in beef production and research to discuss both formally and informally the issues of the day,” Spengler said.

Part of the convention is the election of officers, and once the votes were tallied, a South Dakotan took over the gavel from Steve Whitmire, of Brasstown, N.C.

Steve Munger, owner of Eagle Pass Ranch near Mansfield, S.D., was elected president. Craig Bieber, owner of Bieber Red Angus near Leola, S.D., is the new vice-president. Joe Cassady, part of the Animal Sciences Department at South Dakota State University, was retained as executive director.

Summaries of each presentation, audio files and copies of most presentations are available online at