Monday, June 13, 2016

Story on Haircoats on Cattle Gains International Question

Dear David,
I was very interested in an article I found posted on Facebook about haircoats on cattle (see original article here). So much so that I would like to use your scoring system for coat shedding to at least find  out whether it would work for us. We have an Angus stud herd in Tasmania (Australia's Island State) and obviously the months for observing will be different. I have a couple of questions, firstly when do you recommend that the score be given. I think from the article June would be a good month which would equate with December here. The other question is would this scoring system work for selecting young stock to keep as breeders or is it meant for adult cows. We calve in late winter early spring (mid July to mid September at the very latest) and make our selections for keepers bout now (late autumn early winter). It would be hard to judge these animals as calves but possibly the system could be used when they are yearlings. What it would mean is delaying a final selection until later on. Anyway to start with I would probably just make note a score and then see if there was a difference later on.

Brian Stewart
Dunlop Park Angus Stud
4938 Frankford Main Road, Thirlstane, Tasmania 7307

Dear Brian,

The leader on this hair shedding project is Jared Decker, extension genomics specialist at the University of Missouri, Columbia.  His email is  He may give you more details than I could.

From my perspective in the southwest part of Missouri where fescue is the dominant forage and we run lots of cattle the failure to shed hair is a problem.  The various ergot alkaloids contribute to the genetic problem of shedding and it all culminates in cattle that gain poorly and reproduction is compromised.

We’ve done some form of hair evaluation since the early 90’s and feel it’s valuable to try and select early shedders.  Late shedders obviously appear stressed when the temperatures exceed 80 degrees.

Dr. Decker will be doing a 3-year study to determine more about the gene makeup of cattle across the U.S. and their adaptability to the environment in which they’re raised.  Why he might even be interested in observations.  I’m sure your Angus cattle have some of the same breeding in them that we have in ours.  The folks who show their cattle like those that have lots of hair as it allows them to hid some little imperfections with good grooming.

I would argue though that long hair and slow shedding is not desirable under our warm, fescue-based conditions.

Let me know if you have other thoughts or questions and please try to contact Dr. Decker.

Eldon Cole
Livestock specialist
University of Missouri Extension


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