Selection based on disposition helps the entire beef industry
February 18, 2012
In 2012, many decisions about cattle selection will be taking place in beef herds everywhere. Some herds may begin to rebuild from the heavy culling caused by the drought in the Southwest. Other herds may be continuing to downsize because of lack of forage and high input costs. Part of the selection decision criteria should be disposition of the cattle.
Problems with excitable cattle are becoming a more important issue in the beef industry, both from the standpoint of handler and animal safety and economic returns. Colorado State University (CSU) conducted an experiment examining the effects of temperament on weight gains and the incidence of “dark cutting.” Cattle were ranked on temperament-ranked using a 5-point system while animals were held on a single-animal scale.
Their results show that there is a highly significant effect of temperament ranking on average daily gain. Animals exhibiting the highest temperament ranking also have the lowest average daily gains. Conversely, animals that were the calmest had the highest average daily gains. Their results also show that those cattle that have the highest temperament ranking, those that were berserk, also have the highest incidence of dark cutters.
Dark-cutter carcasses have a very undesirable dark-colored lean that is difficult to market through normal grocery store meat counters. Dark-cutter carcasses will often be discounted approximately $35 per hundredweight (cwt) compared to the brightly colored carcasses.
In the CSU study, 25 percent of the cattle that had a temperament score of 5 exhibited dark cutting, while less than 5 percent of the cattle that had temperament scores of 1, 2, 3 and 4 exhibited dark cutting. These findings show that animals that have very high temperament scores have reduced feedlot performance and increased incidence of dark cutting. (Source: Voisinet, et al. 1996. Colorado Beef Program Report.)
Louisiana State University researchers reported data about the impact of temperament on growth and reproductive performance of beef replacement heifers. They used crossbred heifers that were evaluated for “chute score” (similar to that discussed above) and exit velocity. Exit velocity is a measurement of the speed at which the heifer would travel as she exited a working chute.
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“Slow” heifers (presumably more docile) were heavier at breeding time and tended to have a higher body condition score. Pregnancy rate did not significantly differ between “slow,” “medium,” and “fast” heifers when all crossbreds were considered.
However, it was interesting to note that pregnant Brahman-Hereford F1-cross heifers tended to have lower exit velocities (at both weaning and at the end of the breeding season) than their counterparts that failed to become pregnant. These researchers concluded that some important relationships between growth, reproduction and temperament may exist in beef replacement heifers. (Source: DeRouen and Reger, 2007 Journal of Animal Science Abstracts)
– Colorado State University