National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
3 - 5
Students will explore concepts of heredity in beef cattle and identify dominant and recessive traits.
- My Family's Beef Farm by Katie Olthoff
- Post-it notes, 3 per student
- Chart paper or whiteboard
- Illinois Beef Ag Mag (optional)
- Build-a-Calf Workshop activity sheet, 1 per student
- Breed Pictures, 1 per group or display on white board
- A coin to flip, 1 per group
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
Angus: a Scottish breed of beef cattle known for their good meat quality
Hereford: an English breed of beef cattle with a red body and white face and stomach
alleles: one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome.
dominant: a trait that can be expressed only when two copies of the gene is present
gene: a unit of heredity that is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring
genotype: genetic makeup of an animal or plant
heredity: the passing on of physical or mental characteristics genetically from one generation to another
heterogeneous: trait produced by two different genes or a combination of genes
homogeneous: trait produced by two identical genes
inherit(ed): derive a quality or characteristic genetically from one's parent or ancestors
linked genes: genes that are inherited together or do not assort independently
phenotype: physical features of an animal
recessive: a trait that can be expressed only when two copies of the gene is present
trait: a genetically determined characteristic
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- There are over 60 breeds of beef cattle in the U.S.1 The most popular are Hereford, Angus, Brahman and Charolais.
- Texas is the top producer of beef in the U.S., followed by Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Missouri, and South Dakota.2
- On average, Americans consume 1.7 ounces of beef daily in their diets. Today's leaner beef offers the flavor that consumers crave and the nutrition they need for a healthy diet.3
- Using artificial insemination in beef cattle improves genetics within a herd such as the conception rate of calving, calving ease, and better carcass weights.4
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Begin a discussion with students by asking the following questions:
- Does chocolate milk come from a brown cow? If it doesn't, why not? (Coat color doesn't reflect the color of milk. If we want chocolate milk, we have to add chocolate flavored powder or syrup to the milk.) Explain that most of the characteristics of cattle (including coat color) are inherited from their dam (mother) and sire (father).
- How are beef cattle different from dairy cattle?
- What are some characteristics of humans that are inherited? Do all humans have identical inherited traits? How are they different or the same?
- What are some characteristics in cattle that can be inherited? Do beef cattle and dairy cattle have the same or different inherited traits?
- Why is inheritance important to a cattle rancher?
Activity 1: Beef Cattle K-W-L Chart
- Begin by passing around a post-it note or small piece of paper to every student. Ask the students to close their eyes. Have them visualize their response to the following question: "What comes to mind when I say the words beef cattle?"
- Have students jot down what came to their mind on the post-it note. Clarify to students that they can draw a picture or write down a word or phrase that came to their mind.
- Next, have students place their post-it note into a bucket. Remove the post-it notes one by one and begin to add the student's responses to the K section of a KWL chart drawn on chart paper or the board. These responses reflect what the students Know about beef cattle. Discuss responses as they are revealed.
- After the K section is completed, ask students what they would like to learn about beef cattle. Add their responses to the W section of the KWL chart. These responses will represent what the students want to learn about beef cattle.
- Introduce the digital version of My Family's Beef Farm by Katie Olthoff to the class. Read the book aloud to the students, emphasizing the physical characteristics of the beef cattle.
- Follow the same idea above and have students write on a second post-it note what they Learned about beef cattle from the book. Add these responses to the L section of the KWL chart.
- Compare the W and L sections of the KWL chart to see if the students learned all they wanted to.
- Next, determine any questions in the W section that were not answered by reading My Family's Beef Farm. Place students in small groups based on the number of sticky notes that still need to be researched.
- Assign each group one sticky note from the W section that still needs to be researched and explored.
- Provide students an opportunity to research more information about beef cattle by using the Ag Facts section of the lesson plan, searching on Google, and/or providing a copy of the Beef Ag Mag to the students.
- Once each group has gathered the information needed to answer their question from the W section of the KWL chart, have them add it to a post-it note, share it with the class, and then place the post-it note in the L section of the KWL chart.
Activity 2: Build-a-Calf
- Divide students into groups of four students or less. Give each student a Build-a-Calf activity sheet and each group a coin.
- Instruct students to read the instructions and then play the game.
- The students should flip the coin to determine if the dominant or recessive allele is being passed on from the dam (female) to the offspring. If the coin lands heads up, the dominant gene is passed on. If the coin lands heads down, the recessive gene is passed on. The students should record the gene on their activity sheet and then flip the coin again to see if the dominant or recessive allele is being passed on from the sire (male). Once they have determined the allele from each parent, they should select the correct homozygous or heterozygous pairing on the activity sheet which will tell them which phenotype will be inherited.
- Repeat this process for all of the traits represented.
- Have the students color the calf on the back side of their activity sheet to reflect the genes passed on from the parents to the offspring.
- Have the students compare their offspring to the breed pictures. Does their calf look more like an Angus or a Hereford? Does it look like a cross? What genes determined that?
- In their groups, have the students calculate the percent of animals that look like Herefords, Angus, or crossbreds. Is there an even number of each? Why or why not?
- As a group, have students discuss:
- Are beef producers the only farmers that need to be concerned with genetics? Are there traits in crops or other livestock that are affected by heredity? What might some of those traits be?
- If an animal lives in an arid desert, what traits might you select? What might help your animal be more successful in that environment?
- Do the traits in the game directly affect the animal's use for consumers? What are some traits that might directly affect the animal's use for consumers? Is there a way to select for traits that would focus on nutrition or healthfulness?
Conception Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts.
- Beef cattle are raised on family farms that provide a balanced feed ration, fresh water, and pastures for grazing the herd.
- Genetics play an important role for beef farms in selecting cattle with specific traits to produce a higher quality product for consumers and to increase food production.
- Different breeds of cattle have distinguishing characteristics that can be transferred to their offspring. This is known as heredity.
- Crossbred cattle provide more desirable traits and lifetime productivity over purebred cattle.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Have students brainstorm traits to add to the list from Activity 2. Some could include: muscle, bone, head color, hair length, hoof size, etc.
Invite a beef cattle producer to talk to your students about their farming operation.
Provide each student with a Beef Ag Mag and have them report on their favorite fact telling why they feel that their fact is important for consumers.
Play the My American Farm interactive game The Steaks are High.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Beef Cattle in the Story of Agriculture (Book)
- Levi's Lost Calf (Book)
- Little Joe (Book)
- Compliments of Cattle Poster (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- How CRISPR Lets You Edit DNA (Multimedia)
- Into the Outdoors: Beef Farming (Multimedia)
- Into the Outdoors: Cattle in the Environment (Multimedia)
- NMSU Field Trip! Video Series (Multimedia)
- Riding the Range on a Utah Cattle Drive (Multimedia)
- Why Can a Cow Eat Grass? Video (Multimedia)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life. (T5.3-5.d)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Provide examples of specific ways farmers meet the needs of animals (T2.3-5.d)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Identify examples of how the knowledge of inherited traits is applied to farmed plants and animals in order to meet specific objectives (i.e., increased yields, better nutrition, etc.) (T4.3-5.c)
- Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products (T4.3-5.d)
Education Content Standards
3-LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
3-LS3-1Analyze the interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
3-LS3-2Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Mathematics: Practice Standards
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.