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Economic Influence on Innovation in Cattle Breeding

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The primary goal of cattle production is to produce the most elite offspring possible. In recent years, the cattle production game has changed drastically, with factors such as technical advances to credit. Although some declare the new processes wrong or, unnecessary rather, without market supply competition, market demand competition, and constantly increasing production possibilities, the cattle industry—particularly in the production of bucking bulls—would not be as productive or economically efficient as it is today. My family owns and operates a land and cattle company.

Mainly we raise bucking bulls for competition or performance, rather than stock cattle for consumption. Majority of the family’s income is generated through the cattle company, increasing the strain for the best quality genetics. As producers, we try for the highest quality genetics, the higher quality genetics will urge consumers to purchase from us rather another producer, and for a higher price than the equilibrium price. There are 964,640,000 head of cattle in the world (Cook), with 90,027 slaughtered each day (Mathews). Particular breeds of bovine are slaughtered almost solely for consumption; they are raised, however, for many different purposes. The economic tradeoff in these situations is establishing efficiency. It requires very minimal effort or money to start up a beef cattle operation that produces low grade cattle for slaughter, and those cattle could even be produces at a fairly high rate bringing in a decent amount of money. However, investing in just one single bull with the right statistics and proven genetics could set someone up for further investments and revenue exceeding that of the whole herd of low grade stocker cows. Whether they are to be shown in a ring, buck off cowboys, pull a plow, charge after a matador, or one of the numerous other reasons cattle are raised, some specimens get the job done better than others. Luckily for the beef eaters of the world, the others often end up as perfectly cooked nine-ounce slabs on plates making mouths water.

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The primary goal for cattle production is to produce the perfect offspring. One-step towards the perfect calf crop is artificial insemination, or AI. AI is the introduction of semen into the vagina, or cervix, of a female by any method other than sexual intercourse (“Artificial Insemination”). AI does not generally affect the standard raising-calves-for-slaughter operations. The more competitive branches of the cattle industry, however, are drastically affected by it. When bulls are exceptionally good they will be collected and their semen is sold, standard with the market, the better the bull the more expensive it can be sold for. A particular bull of my families, Long John, was good as a younger bull, but nothing outstanding. As he aged he kept getting ranker and even went on to win bull of the year in the PBR (a fairly prestigious award). After that his semen prices increased insanely. Half a year later he passed away, so the remaining semen from him was irreparable, it can be sold at practically any price solely because there is no other way to obtain it and other producer capable of producing that particular bull’s semen. AI has been rumored to be unsuccessful; the rumors are false. With the rate of artificially inseminated cows successfully being bred at or between 78 and 86 percent, AI is as, or more, effective as natural breeding (“Artificial Insemination”). However, there are still, to this day, close-minded people who fear industrialization and refuse to accept the concept of AI. As long as there have been ranchers, they have asked themselves how to better their herds or calf crop. Another answer is IVF, or in vitro fertilization. AI does not generally have an effect on the cows or heifers. It is primarily a way to maximize a bull’s production and the amount of females he breeds (“Artificial Insemination”). IVF, however, is the opposite, and affects the females rather the bulls.

Production is a key in economics and our production of cattle also relates to me personally when considering economics. In IVF, eggs are taken from one cow and put another. The cow the eggs are initially taken from is called the donor. A donor cow is selected because she has proven her excellence (“Genetics”). There are different ways a donor can prove herself, and essentially, she only has to prove herself to the owner who pays the large fee to have the process done. Besides the donor, who is the main part of IVF, a recipient cow and semen are both required. A recip cow is the female selected to receive the deposit of the eggs into and to raise the baby. The recip cow does not have to be the same breed or have any of the donor’s traits. In fact, some breeders will choose a recip who is docile, typically an angus or crossbred, to carry the eggs of a wilder and crazier donor (“Eckrothrodeobulls.com”). The unpredictable traits are still going to be present in the calf, but having been raised by the gentle mother, the baby is expected to contract some of her calmness. Sexed semen is generally an addition to in vitro fertilization. Sexed semen is one of the most controversial topics within the cattle industry. Some say it is crossing the line and that only God should have the power to control whether a calf is born a bull or heifer (Sutton).

Sexing semen is one of the newest technological breakthroughs. Despite the controversy, sexed semen is an innovative technique that has proven successful. In the bucking bull industry, the goal is to have the best bull possible–one that spins, kicks, and leaps into the air attempting to throw the cowboy off his back. To produce such bulls, a breeder will breed a proven bucker to a cow or heifer. If the offspring is a female, she will be bred to another bull that has proven to buck well. However, if the offspring is a bull, he will be bucked to test if he possesses the qualities it takes to be successful. How the bull bucks might literally be life or death in some cases. Since the goal is to produce bulls that buck, one that does not is usually sent to slaughter. Bucking cows are not bucked.

Since they are not, there is no way to test whether the cows are good or contain the bucking genes breeders hope their babies have until after they’ve had a few successful calves. With the help of IVF, the rub-your-head-for-luck-and-hope-for-the-best method is no longer the sole option. Once a female has proven herself, a breeder can have her eggs collected and put into a recip. That breeder will now have multiple calves out of a donor proven to raise buckers. Before, he would have had one calf out of all of his cows, good or bad; he had no other option because he only had a handful of proven elite females. With all of the beneficial technological advances and inventions in the world, it is no surprise they are being incorporated into the cattle industry. It is thriving now more than ever. Economically speaking, changes in the quantity or quality have the desired effect on the market demand and equilibrium. The industry seeks perfection among its offspring, and many innovators in the industry are willing to go to new heights to create it. Whether by using artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or sexed semen, the ranchers are investing in their herds which will ultimately increase their revenue. Personally, growing up and working with my family throughout this industry—I have come to learn how our product quality/differentiation has brought success upon the business.

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