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SIMPLACE 2008 FOCUSES ON FEED EFFICIENCY AND PROFITABILITY

Bozeman, Mont. -- Feed efficiency was the central theme of the American Simmental Association's (ASA) SimPlace 2008, held in Urbana, Illinois April 8-9. More than 200 individuals from all levels of the beef industry met to exchange ideas at ASA's national science meeting, and nearly 100 viewers logged on to the webcast provided by LiveAuctions.tv.

ASA, the University of Illinois and Montana State University are cooperating on a feed utilization trial highlighting ASA Carcass Merit Progeny. The University of Illinois offers one of the most advanced facilities in the world for measuring cattle feed intake, and the conference got underway on Tuesday with a tour of the facility. Dr. Larry Berger, University of Illinois lead researcher, explained the program. “At the beef facility ... we are testing to define the feed efficiency of progeny of sires used in the beef industry. We are trying to determine how much variation in feed efficiency can be traced to genetics. Can you select animals for improved feed efficiency?”

This research becomes more relevant as producers are driven by increasing energy and feed prices to improve cattle feed efficiency. However there were differences among speakers over the best ways to measure efficiency for genetic selection. Marty Ropp, ASA Director of Field Services/Commercial Programs, is optimistic on the research's progress, “Even small strides today ... in a direction of increased efficiencies are actions we need to consider to pave the way for more advanced genetic improvement systems in the future.”

Industry-wide profitability was the subject of Wednesday's presentations, beginning at the cow/calf level and carrying through to beef carcasses. One aspect discussed was crossbreeding. Dr. John Paterson, Montana State University researcher, gave his take on the issue. “If you want to supply quality grade, yield grade, and weight – you have to get into a cross breeding program...The data is clear that profitability is there if you take advantage of heterosis.”

ASA members were encouraged to hear that the Simmental breed is positioned to take advantage of the technology discussed at SimPlace. Dr. Jerry Lipsey, ASA Executive Vice President, reiterated the theme of the conference “The ASA is committed to developing information and tools that will help our members stay in the forefront of breeding better cattle and better beef.”

The ASA celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a reception on Tuesday evening. A slideshow presentation highlighted special events in the history of the association such as the establishment of the first breed sire summary in the beef industry in 1971, and the development of the first multi-breed EPDs. Ed Schafer, United States Secretary of Agriculture and Governor Schweitzer of Montana offered recorded congratulatory remarks to ASA during the reception. Governor Schweitzer has a close connection to ASA, as it was on his family's ranch in 1968 that the first live half-blood Simmental calf was born in the United States.

The select group of speakers at SimPlace included Dr. Doug Parrett, Dr. Larry Berger and Dr. Dan Faulkner – University of Illinois, Dr. Mike Tess and Dr. John Paterson – Montana State University, Dr. Larry Cundiff – USDA Meat Animal Research Center, Dr. John Pollack and Dr. Dick Quaas – Cornell University, John Welch – CEO of Spade Ranches, Dr. Mike MacNeil – USDA, Tommy Brown – ASA member and President Elect BIF, Dr. Bob Weaber – University of Missouri, Dr. Scott Greiner – Virginia Tech, Mike John – MFA Incorporated, Jim Akers – Bluegrass Stockyards, Gregg Doud – NCBA, Dr. Rick Funston – University of Nebraska, Tom Brink – Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC, Dr. Gene Rouse, Emeritus – Iowa State University, Mark Guge – Two River Cattle Company, LLC, and Tim Schiefelbein, JBS Swift & Co, as well as ASA presenters Marty Ropp – Director of Field Services/Commercial Programs, Dr. Wade Shafer – Director of Performance Programs, and Dr. David Kirscheten – Office Manager.

For more information including video coverage of SimPlace visit www.simmental.org.

The American Simmental Association (ASA) is headquartered in Bozeman, Mont., and maintains the breed registries for the Simmental and Simbrah breeds of cattle. ASA has an active adult and junior membership of nearly 8,000.

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