Genetic influences on growth, health and carcass traits in beef cattle production systems.
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Beef cattle production provides a large economic impact in all regions of Texas with approximately 125,000 cow-calf, stocker and feedlot operations and approximately 12.5 million cattle including 4.6 million beef cows and 2.7 million cattle on feed (NASS, 2018). Cow-calf producers in much of the state rely on breeding strategies that incorporate Bos indicus influence in breeding programs (as do producers in other Gulf Coast states and numerous regions of the world) for adaptation and heterosis advantages. However, certain "unusual" aspects have been reported in several trials involving reciprocal Bos indicus-Bos taurus. As more is learned in humans and rodent model species, epigenetic (non-traditional inheritance patterns) influences appear to be important for many body composition and health-related phenotypes in these species, but investigation of this phenomenon is scarce in beef cattle. Furthermore, bovine respiratory disease (BRD) continues to plague the industry, and information regarding incidence precise health phenotypes in Bos indicus influenced cattle limit potential understanding and control. The potential degree of "noise" in beef cattle production systems due to these types of undocumented variation need to be quantified. The over-arching goal of this project is to characterize potential sources of variation in growth, health, and production efficiency traits of beef production systems, with particular emphasis on Bos indicus-Bos taurus crosses. This project should contribute knowledge for increased the competitiveness of Texas and U.S. beef production through improved understanding of input and efficiency variability, and has implications in developing nations for improved food security and financial stability. A brief literature review and discussion of major concepts follow.