The Poi Dog Factory

Cattle-breeding technologies are positioning Mealani as an industry leader

  • 6 January 2021
  • Author: Mark Berthold
  • Number of views: 2782
The Poi Dog Factory

by Mike DuPonte

I received my BS and MS in Animal Sciences from CTAHR and went to work for the college, but after a long career, I’ve hung up my spurs and retired.

Before I say Aloha! and Mahalo!, I want to tell you about a special cattle-breeding project by Extension at Mealani Research Station.

Not that many years ago, the cows at Mealani were all different sizes, colors and temperament. They were not well accepted by cattle buyers or businesses. They called us the ‘poi dog factory’ of the Hawaiʻi cattle industry. When the state legislature got wind of this name, and why, legislators threatened to cut the funding for our cross-breeding program.

So we got together and figured out our options. The 1-year plan was simple: sell the whole herd and use the money to bring in Angus specimens from the Mainland. The 3-year plan was sell half the herd, buy embryos, and insert them into our remaining stock.

But we chose the most difficult route: a 7-year plan to upgrade our existing stock using semen and artificial insemination. We set an ambitious goal to change the phenotype in three years, and genotype by year seven.

During this process, we measured Expected Progeny Differences and Pfizer 50K DNA (hair or blood). We further developed our artificial insemination, semen collection, freezing protocols, embryo transplant and a sperm bank. We joined the American Angus Association, which meant we were now competing with the best of the best.

Every year, we got better and better. Today, when we take our cattle to be harvested, they grade very high, and our cows are welcomed at the slaughterhouse. We also sent 14 bull specimens to the American Angus Association: 12 were rated in the top 10%, 2 in the top 1% – nationally!

In the cattle industry, carcass evaluation is usually based on grain-fed cows. Our cows have marbling, at the highest possible category, called prime, which is unheard of from eating C4 (tropical) grass, which doesn’t have the energy needed for cows to put on weight.

As I retire, I’m proud to report that Mealani is now on the cusp of selling semen to meat producers around the world – at least that’s our goal. I hope to see continued growth, and I’m glad that Extension agent Kyle Caires is doing that.

Mealani is the real deal!

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