OSU conceives the future of beef

Chad Mueller with a cow
Chad Mueller improves beef cattle by selective breeding at OSU’s research center in Union. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

Researchers focus on genetics of grass-fed cattle

Consumers look for certain qualities in their beef such as marbling, which is the intramuscular fat that enhances the taste. Ranchers look for characteristics that will improve their bottom line, such as a cow's ability to put on the most weight with the least amount of food. 

Through genetic selection and artificial insemination, scientists at OSU's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Union are breeding cows that have these genetic traits. For example, they inseminated their herd with sperm from an Angus bull from New Zealand that was raised on forage and came from a long line of grass-fed bulls. The hope is that offspring may better convert what they eat into more pounds of beef. To measure this, OSU is using a state-of-the-art electronic feed monitoring system that tracks exactly how much a cow eats and how that food translates into weight. The research could further improve the standing of beef cattle as one of Oregon’s top agricultural commodities, which racked up $654 million in farmgate sales in 2012. And it could also eventually affect what beef consumers see on their grills and dinner plates.

To learn more, watch this video about OSU's cattle genetics work.

Source: Chad Mueller, an OSU cattle nutrition scientist

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