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Casper – “Everything starts with a bull, right? That’s our genetic driver,” said Austin Buzanowski of Zoetis Animal Genetics.

As a way to improve accuracy of expected progeny differences (EPDs) and increase the amount of information producers have about their animals, Zoetis uses a DNA test called the i50K test for Angus cattle.

“That way, when we look at a bull, what we see there in the pen and what we see on paper is what we’re going to get when we get home,” he continued.

In addition to being useful in sire selection, Buzanowski discussed the practicality and benefits of using DNA testing for female selection in commercial herds.


While focusing on bulls in the breeding program, Buzanowski suggested producers pay special consideration to their females to optimize genetic performance.

“We’re using those really good bulls to bring genetics into our herd,” he said. “The genetics going back into the herd are from the female. We need her to be able to work for us, as well.”

Traditionally, producers decide whether to keep or cull females phenotypically and based on her dam’s performance.

“How many times has that female that we thought was going to be a good one turned out to not be as good as we hoped?,” commented Buzanowski.

He continued, “We’ve now brought the i50K test over to the commercial side to use with our females, as well.


One of the major benefits of using DNA testing in a commercial setting is to identify parentage, explained Buzanowski.

“If we’re turning out multiple bulls, we can go through, look at the DNA, match it up to a bull and identify her sire,” he said.

With sire information, producers are able to limit inbreeding occurrences and identify problematic trends.

“If there are any issues at birth, whether they be a defect, big calves or little calves, if we’re noticing a trend, it’s very possible it goes back to a certain bull we used,” Buzanowski commented.

Producers are also able to monitor calf performance over the animal’s lifetime and match it to the sires in their breeding program.

“How are our cattle performing? Are they performing good or bad? We can take that information and make those adjustments in our program,” Buzanowski said.


The information gained on an animal’s dollar value for a specific set of traits through the use of indexes is another benefit of genetic testing, said Buzanowski.

In the maternal index, the company strictly evaluates maternal traits.

“Sixty-six percent of the maternal index is going to be made up of our two most important traits in the industry, heifer pregnancy and calving ease,” he continued. “Next in line at about 20 percent is going to be weaning weight, and then, we take a little bit into mature cow size and milk.”

Buzanowski explained that Zoetis elected to not put a large emphasis on cow size and milk production, as producer preferences vary greatly depending on the operation and environment.

In the feeder index, 61 percent is focused on growth and efficiency, he said.

“Growth and efficiency are how we make our money, so that’s how we’re going to weight our index,” continued Buzanowski. “Then, we take into account ribeye, fat and marbling.”

The total advantage score index focuses roughly 40 percent on maternal traits, 40 percent on growth efficiency and 20 percent on carcass traits.

“The reason we weighted it that way was because we wanted an index that was applicable to what’s going on in cow/calf country,” he explained.


According to Buzanowski, i50K testing can be incorporated into a number of programs, both with the American Angus Association and in the feeding sector.

A verified program that Zoetis is partnered with is Reputation Calf Feeder.

“Basically, they take all of the herd’s genetic information from the last 10 years, without DNA testing,” he said.

Using the history of herd bulls, the program calculates what calves are worth over market price.

However, with DNA testing, the program only requires data from the previous year’s bulls.

“DNA testing generates a more accurate value that tends to be higher because we’re looking at exactly where the herd’s genetics are right now,” continued Buzanowski.

He noted that while producers may not see 100 percent added value for their calves, they can expect to see premiums based on the information.

“We are seeing premiums that came from this kind of information,” Buzanowski concluded.

Buzanowski spoke during an industry producer dinner sponsored by Zoetis, Superior Livestock and First Northern Bank of Wyoming on April 19.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“What would happen to some of the top innovators today? What would happen to them in today’s educational system?” began Temple Grandin, celebrated animal welfare and behavior expert, autism advocate, author and professor, during a late March presentation at Eastern Wyoming Community College in Torrington. “Many of these innovators did not follow conventional educational paths.”

For example, Jane Goodall started her work with primates having only a two-year secretarial degree. Thomas Edison was labeled hyperactive and addled by his teachers but conducted his own experiments early on. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the top film school due to poor grades.

Thought processes

Grandin explained that there are a number of different kinds of “thinkers.” She is a visual thinker – one who thinks entirely in pictures. In this case, keywords trigger visual associations rather than abstractions.

For example, when given the word “tractor,” she responds by describing in detail the tractors she had seen in her life, instead of giving a generalized depiction of a tractor. Drafters are also visual thinkers.

Other thinkers include pattern thinkers – mathematicians and engineers, and still others are verbal thinkers.

Applying it to ag

Grandin started applying her thinking style to cattle behavior after spending time on an aunt’s ranch. She took a special interest in the squeeze chute that was used to restrain the animals and decided she could improve upon it.

She became more fascinated with cattle and what motivated their behavior. At feedlots, she watched the livestock closely, noticing that they balked at sunbeams, shadows, parked cars and even coats on fences. She thought about what they were seeing that made them act in a fearful way.

She used this knowledge to improve methods of handling cattle, such as putting lights at the entrance of a chute to encourage them to go inside. If there was any tin showing on the walls, she advised that it be removed and replaced with white translucent plastic, so they could see through it.

“It’s amazing what lighting can do,” she commented. “It can make or break us.”

Cattle also need to have secure footing, and this concept was used to redesign a dip vat for treating mites. Her ingenuity in designing working facilities took advantage of the natural tendency of cattle to travel in a circle and to go back to where they came from.


Grandin said that today, cattle handling is much better.

Each year, about half of the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are processed in cruelty-free facilities she has designed.

Now she is starting to see other issues she feels are caused by selection for genetic traits that is too narrow.

In the late 80s, this happened when the hog industry bred pigs for big loin eyes, rapid growth and thin backfat. The result was aggressive animals with foot and leg problems.

Lameness in dairy cattle is also increasing. Fat feedlot cattle are dying of heart defects, and so far, a specific cause has not been determined. A few proposed reasons include heart disease, brisket disease or simply large size, which puts stress on the heart.

“Don’t go overboard in selecting for traits,” warned Grandin. “It can get us into trouble.”

Grandin’s feelings about farm animals and how their existence could be improved was a big motivator for her accomplishments. She stressed that animals intended for food deserve to have a good life, as well as a death that’s free from fear and pain.

Grandin’s presentation was sponsored by the Western History Center of Lingle and funded in part by Go Goshen Tourism.

Melissa Burke is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Many ranchers have raised calves on bottles – whether that be a twin, a heifer’s calf that isn’t accepted by its mother or a calf whose mother died.

Veterinarians agree that the main thing is to make sure the calf has had colostrum within the first hours of life from its own mother or from another cow to ensure a good start in life.  Antibodies from colostrum provide temporary protection against many of the diseases the calf might encounter. 

After a bottle or two of colostrum, the calf can be switched to milk or milk replacer. 


More challenging than a newborn calf is the one or two-month-old calf that’s been out with the herd all its life and suddenly loses mom. Unexplainable events occur, such as a cow getting on her back in a ditch, dying from larkspur poisoning or bloat, being killed by predators or some other misfortune. This leaves ranchers with an orphan that might be wild and not ready to accept them as mom but too young to go without milk.

Ray Randall, a veterinarian near Bridger, Mont. says some of those calves are good enough robbers to survive out with the herd – sneaking up to suck alongside the calf of another cow. 

They seem to manage, though they might be a little smaller than the other calves in the fall.

Bringing them in

“If they are only a couple months old when they lose mom and we can get them home from the range or in from the pasture, they can probably do all right even without milk – if we can put them on good quality hay and a concentrate feed like grain or calf pellets,” he says.

“Milk replacer is expensive, and it can also be a hassle to get a calf that age sucking a bottle if he’s afraid of people,” continues Randall. 

Instead, producers might put the orphan with an older animal in a small pen – so the calf has a buddy, for security – and give them some good quality feed. 

Once the calf learns to eat by following his buddy’s example, Randall tells producers that they could then utilize a creep situation, if they didn’t want the older animal hogging all the calf feed and not letting the smaller one get its share.

On pasture

“If we have some good pasture and a little herd of cows on pasture, sometimes another cow will adopt the orphan,” Randall comments. “If that happens, the motherless calf will do fine. But if the orphan is very young and we need to try to bottle-feed it, we can bring that calf home with a little group of cattle.”

He encouraged producers to get their hands on the calf as soon as possible but avoid causing extra stress by trying too much to catch it.

“The last thing you want to do is stress the calf too much by trying to catch it – or it might get pneumonia and we’ll lose the calf,” he says. “If we’ve already lost the cow, we don’t want to risk losing the calf, as well.”

Feeding by hand

Randall notes that if the orphan doesn’t have good pasture and a cow to rob from, producers should find a way to feed it milk, milk replacer or a high-quality concentrate diet. 

He explains that the rumen isn’t developed enough yet in a young calf to handle enough forage, but a young calf can digest grain or a more concentrated feed like calf pellets.

“Depending on when the calf lost its mother, it may have already been vaccinated. In that case, it will be okay,” Randall comments, “but if there is any doubt about immune status we could give that calf another vaccination with one of the seven-way clostridial vaccines, for adequate protection.”

Producers should also keep that calf in a clean environment because it will be vulnerable to diseases like coccidiosis or calf scours.  Producers who don’t have a really clean place for that calf may be better off leaving him out at pasture with the herd rather than in a pen where there have been lots of cattle.

Either way, Randall notes that orphaned calves should be monitored closely to make sure they stay healthy. 

Heather Smith Thomas is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


“When I was growing up, one of the first things I learned from my Dad was there are two types of cows to know by name,” said University of Wyoming (UW) Extension Educator Blake Hauptman. “The first are the cows we take to the county fair and name something endearing. The other one are the cows that routinely put someone up on the fence.”

Hauptman explained that investing time and resources into producing calmer cattle not only helps the ranch run more smoothly but is a more economical option.


According to Hauptman, multiple factors influence the docility or temperament of cattle.

“Of course, we have age and sex of the animal,” he said, “but the two most important ones that we’re going to talk about are breed type and production systems.”

Hauptman explained that there are behavioral differences between breeds, as well as among individual bloodlines within breeds.

“Brahman-type cattle typically have more temperament problems than British or continental breeds,” he continued. “It’s important to know that there are individual differences within breeds that are due to either genetics or handling.”

The amount of routine handling and human contact animals have in a production system also has a large impact on their docility.

“If we’re a range-based production system, the cattle might have some temperament issues versus if we’re a smaller operation and we’re handling those animals more often with proper methods,” Hauptman noted.


A 2004 study by Iowa State University that looked at several thousand head of steers from various producers in a feedlot type system found a significant performance difference between animals with poor and adequate temperament.

“What they found was cows with poor disposition were lighter upon arrival, gained less in the feedlot, had higher mortality rates and had reduced carcass characteristics compared to cows that had acceptable temperament levels,” said Hauptman.

When using prices from 2004, the Iowa researchers found that calm cattle returned $62 more per head than aggressive cattle.

“It’s interesting that they surveyed some of those producers who have aggressive cows, and most were not aware that their cattle were difficult to handle,” he commented. “That tells me that sometimes it’s hard for us to realize that maybe we do have a handling issue or that our docility genetics need to improve.”

In a 2011 study in Oregon that looked at the impact of docility on profitability, researchers found a $27 increased weaned calf value for calm cows compared to aggressive cows.

“They also found a $49 increase in carcass value in calm versus aggressive cattle and found that cows with a more aggressive temperament had reduced pregnancy rates compared to ones that had acceptable docility or temperament levels,” Hauptman continued.

Labor cost

In UW Extension’s High Plains Ranching Practicum, a ranch management school, Hauptman noted that benchmarks are given to participants in their operation’s need for labor.

“One of their benchmarks for this year for producers to target was $125 per cow labor costs,” he said. “That’s the benchmark we want to hit, which means we need to have about 400 head per person on our ranch.”

In the current ranching climate where it is difficult to find enough help and needing to run a higher number of animals per person, Hauptman commented that proper cattle handling is a critical skill.

He gave the example of the employee training strategy for the Padlock Ranch.

“They do livestock handling education for all of their employees, so they can do more with less on the range,” continued Hauptman. “Also, they want employees that understand livestock handling principles.”


In another study by the group of researchers in Oregon, Hauptman explained that they looked at whether temperament could be improved through human handling.

“Basically what they did was they exposed heifers to human handling for four weeks after they were weaned,” he said.

The exposed heifers had notable changes in multiple performance factors, said Hauptman.

“They found that those heifers that were exposed to human handling for four weeks had improved temperament and reduced cortisol, which is the stress hormone,” he continued. “They also reached puberty and became pregnant earlier.”

However, when the test was performed on mature cows, the animals did not respond the same.

“They did not find any benefits when they did the application to mature cows,” commented Hauptman.

He concluded, “It seems that we really want to work with our younger animals and be cognizant of our handling because that’s when we’re going to have our most impact on those animals.”

Hauptman spoke during the 2017 Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In most instances, inbreeding and linebreeding should be avoided by cattle breeders to prevent the doubling up of “bad” genes, but in some instances can be used as a genetic tool to “fix” a desired trait.

Michael Gonda of the Department of Animal Science at South Dakota State University explains that linebreeding is merely planned inbreeding.

“What the breeder is trying to do is produce progeny that are related to an outstanding ancestor somewhere back in the pedigree. Ideally, they would be only doing this while keeping inbreeding coefficients low,” says Gonda.

Breeders might be trying to double up a certain ancestor, having that individual appear on both sides of the pedigree, but farther back than father-to-daughter mating, siblings, half-siblings or even grandsire-to-granddaughter.

“One humorous definition of the difference between inbreeding and linebreeding is that linebreeding is what we call it when it works, and inbreeding is when it doesn’t,” he says.

Inbreeding is usually considered bad, and linebreeding has been touted as a good tool when selecting for certain genetics.


One advantage to linebreeding is that ranchers can increase the relationship of their animals to a genetically valuable ancestor. By stacking the genes, this enables the linebred individual to transmit more characteristics to its offspring than the other parent, because it possesses more homozygous genes.

“We call this prepotency. This can be valuable to seedstock producers who want to spread the genetics of an outstanding animal throughout their herd,” he explains.

There have been many instances where herds were intentionally inbred or linebred, such as the research project that began in 1934 at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory (LRRL) in Miles City, Mont.

Line 1 Herefords

“This study was done with Hereford cattle, and they ended up with some animals that were more than 40 percent inbred. The Line 1 Herefords are an example of a successful linebreeding program that was able to maintain high relationship coefficients with a common ancestor – Advance Domino 13 – while keeping average inbreeding coefficients relatively low, at less than 10 percent,” says Gonda.

The idea was to create some inbred lines that could later be crossed with unrelated inbred lines as a way for cattlemen to capture more heterosis – or hybrid vigor – and produce a consistent product by crossing inbred lines within a breed. But this vision was never fulfilled and has since been largely supplanted by crossbreeding.

As stated by Sharon Durham, an ARS staff member, in a 2009 article about the Line 1 cattle, this project was started by using two sons of Advance Domino 13, the founding sire for the desired line. The two sons, Advance Domino 20 and Advance Domino 54, were purchased from Fred DeBerard of Kremmling, Colo. and bred to 50 cows purchased from George Miles of Miles City, Mont. Then, the daughters of Advance Domino 20 were bred to his paternal half-sibling, Advance Domino 54, and vice versa.

After those first matings, the Line 1 Hereford cattle were maintained by USDA at Miles City, and they all descend from this foundation.

The actual inbreeding in each generation was kept low because matings between close relatives were avoided. This was a successful linebreeding program in which a high degree of relationship, 39 percent, to the founding sire has been maintained for more than 18 generations.

“Without linebreeding, the relationship to an ancestor 18 generations ago would be less than one one-thousandth of a percent,” stated Durham.

Test development

Most of the academic and commercial tests that assess production characteristics of individual bulls can be traced to this original research with Line 1 cattle.

Things like length of feeding period and number of animals required to measure economy of gain in progeny testing were pioneered in the development of Line 1 cattle and are now part of the Beef Improvement Federation Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs.

Data from Line 1 animals also contributed to the first estimates of heritability and genetic correlation for beef cattle.

Genetic work

The genetic work with Line 1 also contributed greatly to our understanding of maternal genetic effects in beef cattle. The influence of a cow’s milk production on the growth of her calf is one example.

“Early on, it was established that inbreeding could have detrimental effects on production efficiency. Crossing Line 1 with other inbred lines of Hereford cattle provided some of the first estimates of heterosis for beef cattle. These early results were complemented by the later observation that heterosis fully offset negative effects of inbreeding,” Durham stated.

Hereford breeders and commercial beef producers have purchased Line 1 cattle for more than 65 years for use in their own herds.

Today, direct descendants of the Line 1 Hereford cattle bred at Fort Keogh are found in almost every state and several foreign countries. More than half of all Herefords recorded in the United States today trace part of their ancestry to Line 1.

Recessive genes

Mating close relatives in the Line 1 program provided a continuous test for the presence of harmful recessive genes. 

“Thus, ARS provided a secure source of germplasm when the Hereford breed has run into problems with genetic defects such as dwarfism and epilepsy,” continued Durham.

The Line 1 cattle have also provided several unique opportunities for genetic research.

As stated by Durham, the increased genetic uniformity resulting from long-term linebreeding makes genome sequences easier to assemble. This positioned the Line 1 Hereford cattle for contributions in future research. A Line 1 bull was selected to make a widely used genomic library, and DNA from a Line 1 cow was the foundation of the recently completed bovine genome sequence.

Heather Smith Thomas is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..