Monday, February 28, 2022

Medical breakthrough could help produce more beef Texas A&M researcher applies revolutionary advances in biomedical research to improve beef cattle reproductive efficiency PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 23, 2022


Bos indicus cattle, such as these, lag in their reproductive efficiency, something researchers are trying to help fix with a recent medical breakthrough. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Rodolfo Cardoso)


COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A recent research breakthrough in human medicine could help a Texas A&M Department of Animal Science researcher find a way to increase beef production to help meet the demands of global population growth.

Bos indicus cattle breeds are very important to global beef production due to their adaptability to tropical and sub-tropical climates, including those found in Texas and other southern U.S. states.

But a big challenge or disadvantage for Bos indicus, or Brahman, cattle is that their overall reproductive performance is inferior to that of Bos taurus cattle breeds such as Angus and Hereford, which predominate in the Midwest and Northern states.

Rodolfo Cardoso, DVM, Ph.D., assistant professor and reproductive physiologist in the Department of Animal Science of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is leading a four-year project funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Among the collaborators are Gary Williams, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor emeritus, and graduate students Viviana Garza and Sarah West.

Cardoso said revolutionary advances in neuroendocrine research have defined the mechanisms controlling the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, GnRH. The new insights, he believes, can help his team determine neuroendocrine differences between Bos taurus and Bos indicus genotypes of cattle and use that to enhance reproductive efficiency in Bos indicus-influenced cattle.

Rodolfo Cardoso, Ph.D., at Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science, is conducting the new research. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

“Very recently, there was an important breakthrough on the understanding of how the secretion of GnRH is regulated in rodents and primates,” he said. “Our preliminary research suggests that similar mechanisms are also important in cattle and could explain the differences in reproductive performance between Bos taurus and Bos indicus animals.

“If confirmed, those findings can have practical implications to reproductive management of Bos indicus cattle. In human medicine, several pharmacological strategies to improve fertility in women have already been developed based on these novel findings.”

Calving timing matters

As many as 70% of the world’s cattle are raised in tropical and sub-tropical regions, and approximately 30% of U.S. beef herds have some Bos indicus influence, particularly in the southern and southeastern regions.

One major challenge is that Bos indicus and Bos indicus-influenced cattle reach puberty markedly later than Bos taurus breeds. That late puberty essentially means one less calf in a cow’s lifetime and also presents challenges when breeders try to synchronize estrus cycles for the annual breeding season.

Cardoso said typically Bos taurus heifers reach puberty at 10-12 months, whereas Bos indicus heifers often won’t reach puberty until 15-17 months.

“That five-month delay makes them not reach puberty in time for their first breeding season, and so they have to wait another whole year to be bred and have their first calf,” Cardoso said.

With more than 4 million replacement beef heifers entering the U.S. cow herd annually, the difference between having a calf when the heifer is 2 versus 3 years old can make a big difference in beef production. In Texas and Florida, less than 50% of beef heifers reach the goal of calving at 2 years old due to the Bos indicus influence.

Cardoso said heifers that calve for the first time at 2 years of age produce approximately 300 more pounds of weaned calf weight in their lifetime, or a $500 difference, compared to heifers that calve at 3 years of age.

This project will utilize the recent discoveries to determine whether distinct differences observed in reproductive function in Bos indicus and Bos taurus breeds can be attributed to functional differences in the brain area that controls the secretion of the GnRH hormone.

Predetermined breeding seasons are key to efficiency

A predetermined breeding season typically lasts between 45 to 90 days and allows for more efficient management of a beef cattle operation, Cardoso said.

“You can have a very uniform calf crop, which makes it much easier to manage those calves — vaccinate and do all the health protocols at the same time,” he said. “You can wean and sell the calves at the same time because you have a uniform group, so it makes management much, much more efficient in a cow-calf operation. It also allows for culling of animals that are not efficient.”

In addition to better understanding the cattle’s reproductive function, Cardoso said, a second goal from a pharmacological strategy is to develop synchronization protocols for artificial insemination tailored to Bos indicus heifers. Most protocols currently used in the U.S. were developed specifically for the Bos taurus breeds.

“These Bos indicus heifers already have, at 12-14 months of age, the skeletal size and maturity required to support a safe and healthy pregnancy,” he said. “There’s no question about that. They’re just not cycling yet. We don’t want to induce these heifers to reach what we call precocious puberty (puberty before 10 months of age). That’s not desirable, and that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

A key benefit, Cardoso said, of synchronizing the breeding season more efficiently is being able to use artificial insemination more in Bos indicus-influenced cattle.

“Artificial insemination is the most powerful tool we have available to improve genetics in beef cattle herds,” he said. “Artificial insemination is a way that a beef cattle producer can, over time, start improving the genetics of the herd.”

But currently, breeders’ ability to synchronize estrus of Bos indicus-influenced animals for artificial insemination is not optimal, Cardoso said.

“We hope by the end of this four-year project we will have a very good understanding about the neuroendocrine differences between Bos taurus and Bos indicus-influenced heifers,” he said. “And, more importantly, we think at that point we’ll have some good strategies to pharmacologically control the estrus cycle in Bos indicus-influenced heifers.”

–Kay Ledbetter
Texas A&M AgriLife Today


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

FROM TEXAS FARM BUREAU ... Insights on who’s producing our nation’s food, fiber and fuel Ninety eight percent of all farms are classified as family enterprises PUBLISHED ON February 15, 2022


USDA defines a “farm” as “any place that, during a given year, produced and sold (or normally would have produced or sold) at least $1,000 of agricultural products” in Gross Cash Farm Income. (Stock photo via U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain)

WACO, Texas — A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report on America’s Diverse Family Farms provides some interesting insights on who’s producing our nation’s food, fiber and fuel.

Keep in mind USDA defines a “farm” as “any place that, during a given year, produced and sold (or normally would have produced or sold) at least $1,000 of agricultural products” in Gross Cash Farm Income.

Using this definition, USDA counted 2,010,663 total farms in the report. If you do the math, one single farm produces food and fiber for 165 people.

Nearly all of the farms are family operations. Surprised? Ninety eight percent of all farms are classified as family enterprises. So much for the cries of a faceless, corporate agriculture.

The report drills down even further. It says 89% of farms are defined as small farms. These smaller farms tend to be less reliant upon farm income for their living. Small farms operate 48% of the land while accounting for 20% of the value of production.

The remaining 11% of farms are considered mid-sized and large-scale farms. They operate on 52% of the land and account for 80% of production. These farms tend to be comprised of full-time farm families earning their living from the farm.

Americans are blessed with the abundance of what these farms produce. Americans spend less than 5% of average per capita income on food at home—the lowest in the world, according to Farm Policy Facts.

We are blessed indeed.

–Gary Joiner
Texas Farm Bureau

Poultry and Fowl Owners Encouraged to Strengthen Biosecurity to Protect Against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza February 14, 2022 Animal Health Alert

 From Texas Animal Health Commission

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a flock of commercial turkeys in Indiana, a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Kentucky, and a backyard flock of mixed species birds in Virginia, in February 2022. To learn more about these cases, click here

Prior to these cases, APHIS also reported multiple confirmations of HPAI in the wild bird population, since January 2022. These findings are not unexpected, as wild birds can be infected with HPAI and can carry the disease to new areas when migrating. APHIS anticipates additional wild bird findings.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these avian influenza detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively surveil and test in the affected areas and look for the disease in other commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

While avian influenza has not been detected in Texas, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) strongly encourages poultry owners to implement or strengthen biosecurity practices in both commercial and backyard flocks immediately. Creating a barrier between migratory birds and your flock is of the utmost importance due to the known HPAI in the fly ways. Practicing sound biosecurity can help keep disease away from your flock and keep your birds healthy.

Below please find general information about avian influenza and helpful biosecurity tips to keep your flock healthy.



Avian influenza (AI) is an influenza type A virus that infects domestic poultry, fowl and birds, such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, geese and guinea fowl.


There are many strains of the AI virus. Based on the severity of illness caused by the virus, these strains are put into two classifications, low pathogenic and highly pathogenic. Highly pathogenic strains are capable of mutating to HPAI under certain field conditions. HPAI virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to chickens, and can spread rapidly from flock-to-flock. 





Signs of AI infection may differ based on the strain. Signs and symptoms of AI infected birds may include:

·     Sudden death without clinical signs

·     Lack of energy and appetite 

·     Decreased egg production

·     Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs

·     Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks 

·     Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs

·     Nasal discharge

·     Coughing and sneezing

·     Incoordination

·     Diarrhea

Birds infected with LPAI may show few to no warning signs.




AI viruses are transmitted directly from bird to bird through airborne transmission or indirectly through contaminated material such as shoes, tools, and equipment. The movement of humans, birds and equipment, along with exposure to migratory waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds, increases the risk for the introduction of AI.



Producers who suspect poultry to be infected with the AI virus, or observe clinical signs of HPAI, such as high morbidity and mortality, should immediately contact the TAHC or USDA for testing, if necessary. Upon laboratory confirmation of the disease, the TAHC will work closely with the bird owner to prevent disease spread. Response personnel will visit the operation and work to efficiently take samples, quarantine the premises and inventory poultry.




Poultry producers and dealers should follow sound biosecurity practices to prevent the introduction of AI into their flocks.

·     Restrict traffic onto and off of property. 

·     Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment, tires and undercarriages of vehicles before entering or leaving areas where poultry are present. 

·     Allow as few people to enter poultry premises as possible.

·     Always wear clean clothing and disinfect properly before and after working with poultry.

·     Protect poultry flocks from coming into contact with wild or migratory birds.

·     Keep poultry away from any source of water that may have been contaminated by wild birds.

·     Avoid visiting other poultry farms. If you must go where other poultry are located, disinfect or change clothing and shoes before returning to your farm.

·     Do not bring birds to the farm unless you know the health status of the flock of origin.




Avian influenza does not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses. For more information on human health concerns visit:




Remain vigilant in examining the health of your birds. If your birds exhibit unusual death loss or signs of illness, or you observe large scale sickness and mortality of wild birds, call your private veterinarian, the TAHC: 1-800-550-8242, or the USDA: 1-866-536-7593 immediately.