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Current Projects: Dr. John Pollak

Researchers Study Productivity and Stayability of Beef Cattle

Research project: "Quantitative and Genomic Study of Stayability and Adaptation"

A team of experts from the University of Nebraska and Cornell University are researching DNA markers for female reproductive productivity and "stayability" on a large Nebraska cow-calf operation. The ultimate goal of this research is to help beef producers maximize genetic improvement by developing effective selection tools for longevity and reproduction.

Approximately 20,000 animals will be included in the research, which began in 2004 when the team started collecting DNA samples on heifers and their sires. Using DNA marker technology, the heifers will be sire identified. Then the sires will be evaluated based on the performance of their daughters for traits such as breeding, rebreeding and "stayability" in the herd. Because the ranch maintains performance and economic records on the animals, this research will also generate a large informational database for future studies. When combined with genomic information on the cattle, these data will provide a valuable resource population.

This project will evaluate sires by using DNA markers for the maternal performance of their daughters, including:

  • Bred/open pregnancy status and weights
  • Birth and weaning weights
  • Culling information

The results from this study will be critical in providing knowledge and genetic selection tools to producers in order to improve reproduction and increase the reproductive longevity of cows. The development of genetic markers for "stayability" within a herd would have significant impact on the costs of developing replacement females. This will ultimately increase the profitability of commercial beef cattle enterprises.

The study should be completed by December 2011.

Research Team

Dr. John Pollak, Project Director
Cornell University
Breeding and Genetics
Email: ude.llenroc@6pje

Dr. Matthew Spangler
University of Nebraska
Breeding and Genetics

Dr. Steve Kachman
University of Nebraska
Quantitative Genetics/Statistics

Dr. Kathy Hanford
University of Nebraska
Quantitative Genetics/Statistics

Dr. Makram Geha
Post-doctorial student, University of Nebraska
Quantitative Genetics