Genomics testing not major priority for Farmfair buyers

Information didn’t influence decisions Buyers more interested in how heifers looked and calving dates

EDMONTON — Three lots of bred heifers at Farmfair International’s commercial bred heifer sale came with a long list of benefits, just like the sticker in the window of a new pick-up truck.

The cattle were genomics tested and came with their own sticker listing average daily gain, back fat measurements, dry matter intake and a long list of characteristics to help cattle producers improve efficiency and profitability.

However, just like a truck, it was the looks rather than the fancy stuff that sold the animals.

Mike Wurz of the Morinville Colony near Morinville, Alta., didn’t care about the genomics information. He bought the five bred heifers from Olds College and five bred heifers from Agriculture Canada’s research farm in Lacombe, Alta., because they were good looking heifers and calved at the right time.

“Genomics doesn’t enthuse me. I’m a Holstein guy and everyone’s doing genomics, but I’m old school,” Wurz said.

“I want tried, tested and proven.”

Wurz paid $2,000 each for the black baldie bred heifers from the Agriculture Canada research farm.

“These heifers have all the traits I want. The Herefords put some brains between the ears and the Angus gives them some umpf so they get up and suck,” said Wurz.

“They’re uniform and docile. Docile is something you can’t get enough of.”

Wurz paid $1,400 each for the five Black Angus, Simmental, Gelbvieh cross cattle from Olds College.

“Olds College has a good breeding program,” he said.

“I need heifers that come out of a good breeding program.”

Wurz also bought another pen of 10 Angus cross cattle that weren’t genomics tested from Beaton Creek Ranch in Dixonville, Alta., for $1,425 each.

The three groups are bred to calve before and after his main herd of 500 cows on the colony. The calving dates also helped influence his purchase.

Jeff Nilsson of Morinville bought the other genomically tested cattle from the University of Alberta’s Kinsella Research Ranch for $1,400 each. Like Wurz, he bought the cattle be-cause of their expected calving dates rather than the genomics testing.

“They fit into the calving period of South Peace Stock Farms,” said Nilsson, who bought the cattle for his uncle, Brian Nilsson.

“They were the right breed and the right kind. They were Angus based.”

It’s the first time genomically tested bred heifers have been sold from the three research facilities.

Genomics may not be the way the buyers at Farmfair chose their cattle, but it will be part of the future of cattle production, said Tom Lynch-Staunton, director of industry relations with Livestock Gentec at the University of Alberta.

“These are tools that can help cattle producers select animals,” he said.

The 95 head sold in 14 lots from $1,300 to $2,050.

Farmfair International ran Nov. 3-10.

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