GENETIC SELECTION PRESSURE – A VALUABLE BUT LIMITED RESOURCE
In the beef business we don’t select for single traits. We make improvements on numerous fronts over time. However, selection pressure is a limited resource. Last year a friend of mine generously offered to come and help calve one day. I was a little behind so I took him up on his offer. I had a set of twins and needed to feed one of them but was out of colostrum. I asked my friend to run in to our ranch supply store to pick some up. When he got back he had successfully acquired the colostrum along with numerous unnecessary items (curry combs, chalk, ropes, fencing material, etc.) He tried his best to explain what had happened and I found out that when he got in to the store he was happy to see an attractive young lady working the store that day. As he searched for the colostrum he enjoyed the opportunity to flirt with the young lady. He promptly found the colostrum but was not ready to quit flirting so he proceeded to buy more and more unnecessary stuff. My friend seemed to be unable to grasp, or more likely just didn’t care, that my money was a limited resource.
Any time we get into town to our ranch supply store we are instantly faced with a large number of tools and products that we wouldn’t mind having. However, we don’t just start buying everything we see. Money is a limited resource for most of us so we must use it on the most important stuff first. First we purchase our vaccines, mineral, etc. There’s other stuff we need and we will purchase (fencing material, new tools, etc) but we won’t spend as much money on them or won’t even purchase them unless we’ve already acquired the necessities (feed, health products, etc). As we work down the list we may even have some money left for the less important but convenient stuff (a new pair of coveralls, a cup of coffee, etc).
This same concept holds true for our time. Say we would really like a new fence built around our house, the bills paid and the cows fed. If we prioritize these they would go in this order; feed the cows, pay the bills, build the fence. However, if just walk out the door and do the first thing we see (build the fence), hungry cows and unpaid bills will cause major problems and, long-term, likely put us out of business. We likely can’t even spend equal amounts of time on each task. Realistically, all the cows need fed even if it takes 75% of the day. We have to prioritize and spend our limited resource, our time, accordingly.
This is how we must look at genetic improvement and, more specifically, genetic selection pressure. Selection pressure is not an unlimited resource and those who manage that resources wisely and effectively will be the most profitable and will have genetically superior cattle.