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Increasing Profitability

Opportunities abound for genetic and reproductive progress in the next 20 years.

DES MOINES, Iowa (Sept. 8, 2016) — The future is bright for reproductive and genetic progress, said Mark Allen, director of genetic technology for Trans Ova Genetics, Sioux Center, Iowa. Selection processes have evolved considerably from simple visual appraisal, and while considerable progress has already been made, more opportunities are available.

The forward-thinking presenter addressed more than 200 attendees of the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 7-8.

Mark Allen, director of genetic technology for Trans Ova Genetics, Sioux Center, Iowa.

The formula for genetic gain equals accuracy times genetic variation times intensity over generation interval. He noted this a denominator-heavy equation, and the generation interval is the piece of reproductive technology that has the most potential to improve. It is the industry’s job has to harness that potential.

Reproduction is a complex multi-component trait, and he noted that there are many places in which something can go wrong. However, he reiterated that cattlemen need to harness more data in reproduction to improve it.

The beef industry has a large toolbox of reproductive tools, including artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET), in vitro fertilization (IVF), sexed semen, recipient solutions, genetic resources, viagen technology and even precision breeding in which genes can be edited.

He noted that ET and IVF have the most potential to reduce generation intervals, and shared data in which they have been successfully used in the dairy industry. Elite females can have oocytes collected as early as seven months old, and can also be collected while pregnant, so genetic advances hasten. In Holsteins, parent ages are going down, but accuracy is going up.

For the beef industry, Allen highlighted that genomic technology is also helping accuracy increase. Genomic tests increase the data equivalent to many progeny generated. However, the dairy industry is better at leveraging commercial data, and suggested the beef industry do the same. Collecting data on reproductive traits will further reproductive advancement for the beef industry.

Allen spoke during Thursday’s ARSBC morning session. Visit the Newsroom at, which features comprehensive coverage of the symposium, to view his PowerPoint, read the proceedings or listen to the presentation. Compiled by the Angus Media editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.