An Angus cow from an Iowa State University herd is ranked first in the nation by the American Angus Association, and will be sold at the National Western Livestock Show in Denver on Jan. 16. The cow was ranked first out of 135,841 Angus cows nationwide for its genetics, which produces high quality beef.
"The Iowa State beef cattle breeding project was led by Iowa State animal scientists and their breakthrough was the use of ultrasound as a selection tool," says Mark Honeyman, who coordinates the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. "They used the ultrasound technology to select cattle that now lead the Angus breed in intramuscular fat."
The ultrasound technology helped researchers make breeding selections based on the amount of intramuscular fat, better known as marbling. Marbling creates prime and choice cuts of meat that produce tasty, juicy steaks consumers prefer.
Gene Rouse, a former animal science professor at Iowa State who is now the president of the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Coop, and Doyle Wilson, a retired Iowa State animal science professor, began researching the use of ultrasound in 1996. The research focused on using ultrasound to determine body composition and muscle marbling of beef cattle.
Ultrasound helped understand cattle growth
"Ultrasound helped us understand how cattle grow and develop," Rouse says. "We scanned cattle every 30 days to see how the rib eyes developed and how the intramuscular fat developed. Before this technology we could only look at the meat, not the live animal."
The research herd also produced the third- and eighth-ranked Angus cows in the nation, which will be sold at the Angus Foundation Female sale.
Embryos from the top-ranked cows also will be sold. The purpose of selling both the cows and the embryos is to share the genetics with beef cattle producers throughout the industry.
Marshall Ruble, ISU teaching farm livestock manager and an undergraduate student took the cows to Denver on Friday to prepare for the sale. He said ISU will make an impression at the Denver sale.
Tremendous publicity for ISU
"This is the biggest gathering of cattle in the country. There's a tremendous amount of sales and shows," Ruble said. "It will be nice to get national exposure for this research and get the research out to the public."
Honeyman, a professor of animal science at ISU, says it's unusual for a university to play such a prominent role at this sale. He also said that it is hard to predict how much the cows will sell for at the auction. The proceeds from the sale will support further beef research at Iowa State.