Thursday, December 1, 2016

AHA Educational Forum: AHA Creative Services

Sean Jersett, Christy Bengno, Julie Mais, Alison Marx, Caryn Vaught

Number one piece of advise for an advertiser:
Be aware of your sale dates! You need to have the deadlines for dates to go to the printer and when catalogs will be to the customers. You need to have your ducks in a row before the printing date.

How do you handle photography?
Photos need to be high resolution, print quality photos to look good in the catalog. "We need to have the photos identified so we know how to use them," Bengno said. Dropbox or email is a good way to send in the photos. Make sure that email allows for the photos to be sent as high resolution. If you have a lot of photos, Dropbox is much easier. Put the photos in Dropbox and then share the folder with the AHA staff. Make sure you notify the AHA staff that you have added photos to an existing shared photo.

When using phones, make sure your phone has a high quality camera on your phone and that you have your phone setting to the highest resolution possible (largest file size). If you don't change these settings, your phone will not take a high enough quality picture. If you have a 72 DPI photo, it will appear 4 times smaller than it should be in print.

What about breeders using Photoshop?
The Photoshop images are a great way for a producer to share their vision of the picture, but the actual Photoshop and other processing needs to be done by AHA staff to make sure that the requirements for print are meet. Send the raw photo, and the AHA staff will do the edits. Make sure that there is enough background space around the animal.

Advice for preparing an Hereford Journal ad?
Make sure that there is good communication. If the photos are not going to be ready in time, let the AHA staff know. "Too much information is often better than too little information," Marx said.

If an ad is made by a different publication, have the other organization communicate with the AHA staff to make sure the ad is prepared according to AHA specifications.

If preparing an ad, share colors that you don't like. Share items you would like to be included. Photos help a lot! Communication is key. "Some times I like a blank page, but at least tell me what you hate!" Jersett said.

What is the difference between a ride-along and other catalogs?
Figure out your target audience. If you are marketing to juniors showing heifers, including a ride along with the September issue that focuses on the Junior Nationals. If you are focusing on commercial cattlemen, printing in the tabloid publications is a great way to hit commercial ranchers.

The tabloids printed on paper are a cost savings for the AHA. If the commercial producer will fill in a card and send it back to the AHA, this allows them to send out the tabloid at no cost to the commercial producer.

How many clicks are you getting on banner ads?
Working on the back end, AHA staff can give you data on your specific banner ads.

Ag Teachers can request for a free subscription to the Hereford World. But, they need to request a new subscription each year.

Decker's Take Home Message
Progressive beef producers need to make sure they are doing a good job branding and marketing their cattle. To see a full return on investment in best practices and technology, producers need to be aggressively marketing their cattle. Working with the right creative services can really help.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Brangus Journal: Understanding Genomic Prediction

Head on over to the Brangus Journal website to see some of my latest writing on genomic prediction.

The Dance Steps of Genomics Part I: Understanding Genomic Prediction

Personally, it is probably my favorite of the articles I have written, so I would encourage you to make the time to read it.

What do you think of the article? As always, your feedback is welcome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AHA Educational Forum: myHERD services

Stacy Sanders and SyAnn Foster

"When we do things electronically, we are no longer waiting on the postal service," said Stacy Sanders.

He also noted that electronic reporting did not require any handling or processing by the association staff.

The electronic recording also eliminates paper work and automatically uses semen certificates that have been released to the breeder.

In addition to the AHA service, the association also allows you to use Genetic and Economic Management (G.E.M.) and CattleMax. AHA is also working with the smart phone app CALF BOOK. "We want to give you options, we want to give you something that works for you," Sanders said.

The myHERD service is also switching to a different system to enable a faster web interface, which will also work better on smaller screens like tablets and smartphones.

AHA has a goal of 80% of records turned in electronically. Weaning and yearling data is currently above 80% reported electronically, other data points, such as registrations or payments are increasing.

When using a third party software, make sure that you are creating animals in the software, not in myHERD. Once the initial extract is made to go into the third party software, the AHA does not send data to the software. This is a one-way street of the data going from the software into the AHA system.

The easiest way to transfer animals is to make sure you get the buyers member ID. This is the best way to identify a member in myHERD. myHERD is also able to search for nonmembers that are already in the AHA database.

You can also release AI certificates to customers and to see which certificates have been released to you.

myHERD also displays information which producers you have done business with. You are able to download this list to get addresses and other contact information for your customers. This list can also be extend to 5 years. The download is a CSV file which can be easily opened in Microsoft Excel, or other spreadsheet software.

In myHERD you can also update incorrect data, see adjusted weights, and other reports. Breeders can also order DNA tests through myHERD, see the status of currently ongoing tests, and see previous DNA test results.

There is now a new button to get calf crop data. First, go to the TPR Whole Herd Reporting screen. Click on the calf crop you want to retrieve. You can then click on the "Calf Crop" button to download the data on that calf crop. This data includes data records such as weights, chute scores, dam weights, etc. This report also contains EPD and EPD accuracy data. This report will also contain any genetic defect testing.

AHA has held "School of" webinars. They now have 23 myHERD tutorials on the AHA website at There are two ways to view myHERD tutorials.
The first method tells you step by step and tells you where on the screen to click.
Second, you can have all steps shown or printed at once.

When ordering DNA tests, it automatically shows you active animals. But, if you need to DNA test a deceased or disposed animal, you can simply click on "All Animals" to show all your animals. After selecting the animal, you click the primary reason for DNA testing the animal. You will then choose the type of test you want to use (parentage, GE-EPD, horn-polled, etc.). When doing parentage, if one of the parents does not have a DNA test on file, it will automatically create a field to order a DNA test for that parent. myHERD will also check for duplicate DNA testing, which saves the association money.

Another new feature in myHERD is to look at the status and results of previously purchased test.

Allflex tag products are now available directly from AHA. Allflex has a Tissue Sampling Unit (TSU) that will take a sample for DNA testing. These ear tags can be various combinations of visual, EID, and TSU Allflex products. The TSU sample can be kept at room temperature for a year, and if kept in a freezer can be kept indefinitely (a long time).
PI testing can also be done with TSU sample. AHA is investigating offering PI testing at the same time as DNA testing. One way to simplify DNA testing and PI testing at the same time is to collect two samples.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Road Warrior: First Week of November Addition

This weekend I get to cross the state to visit with several producer groups.

Friday November 4th I will be speaking at 3pm at the Joplin Regional Stockyards during the Central States Beefmaster Breeders Association field day. The CSBBA will be having a performance bull sale at the Joplin Regional Stockyards the next day at 1 pm. I will be discussing the how and why of genomics.

Saturday, at 8am I will be speaking as part of the Pearls of Production Program at the University of Missouri South Farm Research Center in Columbia, MO. I will be discussing bull selection, and the South Farm herd bulls will be on display for viewing.

Saturday at 7 pm I will be speaking at the 2016 Beef Producers Seminar in Maryville, MO. The trade show will start at 2pm with demonstrations and presentations to follow.  I will be discussing genomic prediction, and we will have a live animal demonstration with a set of heifers that have commercial heifer genomic predictions.

Google says this will be 942 miles on the road for me...

Hope to see you at one of my stops this weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Farm Management Program Addresses Tough Times and Tackles Tough Questions in Agriculture

          According to Garry L. Mathes, chair of the 2016 Missouri Livestock Symposium, producers and land owners coming to the Missouri Livestock Symposium to participate in the farm management section can expect the speaker lineup to address some of the toughest questions facing agriculture today. Mathes continues to say that the Missouri Livestock Symposium continually strives to be on the cutting edge of producer education and our Farm Management section is designed to do just that.
Dr. Scott Brown, University of Missouri ag economist, will return for the Saturday program to lead two discussions. The first talk focuses on “Land Values and Cash Rents: How Far Will They Fall” and the second talk concentrates on “Who is Winning the Agricultural Trade Game.” Dr. Brown brings many years of experience dealing with agricultural economics and farm management. Mathes notes Scott is an exceptional speaker and no one will want to miss his presentations. 
Also speaking in the Farm Management Section will be Jennifer Wood, crop insurance agent, discussing the changes and specifics of the Livestock Risk Protection Program as well as additional information on the Pasture Range and Forage insurance program.
Rounding out the Farm Management Section will be three talks on estate planning. Dr. Ron Hanson, University of Nebraska, will address the challenges farming families face when transferring farm ownership to the next generation. Dr. Hanson’s talks include “You Can Buy the Family Farm, But I Still Own It,” “Overcoming Family Challenges to Farm Succession Planning for Success,” and “Keeping Your Farm in the Family for the Next Generation-Is There a Succession Plan.” Mathes continues to say, “We are extremely excited to host Dr. Hanson at this year’s Livestock Symposium. Anyone who owns a farm or ranch will benefit greatly from hearing Dr. Hanson speak about overcoming the family challenges to ownership transfer.”
Mathes notes that there will be a lot more of interest in addition to the Farm Management program. There is a full lineup of nationally acclaimed speakers on beef cattle, horses, sheep, meat goats, stock dogs, backyard poultry and beekeeping. The Symposium also features a free trade show and two free meals—a beef supper on Friday evening at 6 p.m. and a Governor’s Style Luncheon on Saturday at noon.
            The Symposium runs from 4-10 p.m. on Friday, December 2 and 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 3. The event will be held at the William Mathew Middle School, 1515 S. Cottage Grove in Kirksville, MO. No pre-registration is needed and there is no cost to attend. Mathes notes, “if there is a better deal anywhere he wants to know about it!”
The Friday night program will also feature a keynote address by Dr. Scott Brown titled “The Financial Challenges and Opportunities Facing Missouri Agriculture.” Dr. Galen Hill of Kirksville, MO will be honored with the 2016 Missouri Livestock Person of the Year.
Additional details about speakers, topics, lodging, meals, trade show, and more can be found at the Missouri Livestock Symposium website at and our Facebook page; or call Garry Mathes at 660-341-6625 or the Adair County Extension Center at 660-665-9866.


University of Missouri Extension provides equal opportunity to all participants in extension programs and activities, and for all employees and applicants for employment on the basis of their demonstrated ability and competence without discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or status as a protected veteran.

Monday, October 31, 2016

eBEEF Monday: Economically Relevant Traits

Economically relevant traits (ERTs) are those that are directly associated with either a cost or a source of revenue.  Not all Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) represent traits that are ERTs, and instead represent indicator traits. It is important for producers to know the difference between ERTs and indicator traits when making selection decisions.

For more information, see the factsheet "Economically Relevant Traits."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Beefmaster Breeders United Convention: EPDs and Selection Indexes

Matt Spangler
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In the past, the only way we made improvement was through visual appraisal.

Photo from Harlan Ritchie's Beef Review. Difference between 1835 and 1937 champion.
As the picture above shows, we can make a change, but how many of us want to wait 100 years?

Improvement can be accomplished through management and genetics.

In the past we (animal breeding scientist) have probably done a disservice to the industry by producing lots of EPDs, then dumping those in beef producers lap and then expect you all to make meaningful decisions with them. In some situations, this may be as valuable as a free cat.

There are many factors that can influence an animals record, for example a weaning weight. Weaning weight may be affected by age of the calf, age of the dam, how much it was feed, and other environmental factors.

So, we need to compare animals to their contemporaries, Contemporaries are animals of the same sex, raised at the same ranch with the same management. We can calculate a ratio of how different from the contemporary group each animal is. These ratios are helpful for making within herd selection, but it cannot be used to make selection decisions across herds. EPDs allow us to make selection decisions across herds.

What we need to be selecting on is the genetics, because this is inherited from generation and generation and allows us to make genetic progress.

Breeders often misunderstand EPD accuracy. Accuracy is not a measurement of the consistency of the calf crop. Accuracy is a measure of how certain we are of the EPD estimate. Accuracy is really a measure of the possible change we might see in that EPD. The EPD may be 40, but the 68% confidence interval might be between 35 and 45 pounds.

Consider two bulls with a weaning weight EPD of 40. The first bull has an EPD ACC of 0.3, which means a possible change 8.1 pounds. The second bull has an EPD ACC = 0.8, which means a possible change of about 2 pounds.

Another very important tool is percentile rank. If a bull is in the 25th percentile, he is better than 75% of the other bulls in the breed and worse than 24% of the bulls in the breed.

The across-breed EPD adjustment factors are a tool to compare EPDs across different breeds. By adding or subtracting by the adjustment factors.

There is no easily accessible, objective way for breeders, particularly breeders in the beef and sheep industries where ownership is diverse and production environments vary a great deal, to use these predictions [EPDs] intelligently.  -- Bourdon
This is not a question of the intelligence of beef producers. This is commentary on the difficulty of using EPDs. The solution to this is to use economic selection indexes. Profit is of course revenue minus cost. It is quite easy for us to create EPDs for revenue traits. It is harder to create EPDs for the cost side.

Seedstock producers need to discuss the customers needs. Spangler shared the experience of seedstock producers calling him up to sell him bulls to use in the University of Nebraska's cattle herd. They start telling him about the bulls in the sale he should be looking at. These breeders have not asked him about his needs. Seedstock producers need to do a better job of asking their customers about their production. What is the customer's breeding objective? When are they marketing their calves? What is their production environment like?

We need to focus on economically relevant traits, and not indicator traits. Indicator traits are important to measure, record, and report because they help us predict economically relevant traits.
Lets consider pairs of traits. Which one is the economically relevant trait?
BWT vs CE: Birth weight is an indicator of calving ease. Calving ease can cause increased labor costs and leads to problems for cattle rebreeding.
REA vs YG: Ribeye area is a component of Yield Grade. Yield grade is the trait that influences the sale price, thus is the economically relevant trait.
YWT vs CWT: This comparison depends on when cattle are sold. But, for the overall industry, Carcass Weight is the economically relevant trait.
MWT vs DMI: Mature weight is an indicator of the dry matter intake of the cow. The dry matter intake is the economically relevant trait.
RFI vs FI: No one gets paid for residuals. You have to pay the entire feed bill. Feed intake, not residual feed intake, is the economically relevant trait.

There are different traits that are important depending on the production sector of the industry. If you are selecting for cattle

There are three methods for selecting for multiple traits.
First is tandem selection. In this strategy we select for birth weight till it reaches an appropriate level. Then we select for weaning weight. The problem with this strategy is that when we select for increase weaning weight we loose ground on the progress we made for birth weight (birth weight goes up), because the two traits are correlated. This is a very inefficient selection strategy!

Independent culling levels. In this method, you set minimum levels for birth weight, weaning weight, marbling, etc. This method is also inefficient because it fails to recognize bulls that are excellent for several traits but barely misses the cutoff for a trait. This also does not weight traits according to their economic importance.

Selection indices were first developed in 1943. The first selection index in the beef industry was published in 2004. This was a 60 year time lapse.
"This would be similar to corn producers hitching up the mules to plant the corn in the spring," Spangler said. This is a proven technology and needs to be adopted by the beef industry.

When designing a selection index we are trying to make improvement for traits in our breeding objective. The breeding objective may contain things like calf survival, weaning weight, fertility, etc. The more closely the traits for which there are EPDs match the traits in the breeding objective, the better the selection index works. When the breeding objective trait is not predicted, we need to use an indicator trait.

Why do we use the past five years of economic data and not the current prices and spreads? We are selecting cattle to use in the future, not today. A five year average is going to give us a better prediction of future prices than current prices will.

For the Beefmaster Terminal Economic Index, carcass weight is the most impactful trait, followed by feed intake and third by marbling.

For Beefmaster Maternal Economic Index, smaller mature weight is the most important trait, while increased weaning weight and increased maternal effect on growth (milk) are the second and third most importnat traits. This index selects bulls that will producer daughters that are smaller cows that wean heavier calves.

As Spangler and his group developed these indexes, they looked at how sensitive their indexes are to the assumed genetic correlations and the assumed economic values. Whether or not the calves were all calf feeds or yearling slaughter, had no effect on the index.
They found that the indexes were very robust (insensitive) to changes to genetic correlations or economic assumptions.

Lets look at two bulls, one with an index of 100 and the second with an index of 76. Lets assume that over 4 years, these two bulls are exposed to 120 cows.
120 exposure X ($100 - $76) = $2880 in profit difference between the two bulls.

Improvement in current indices can be made by increasing the number of economically relevant traits that have EPD predictions.

  • Input traits
  • Fertility

Enterprise level profitability should move closer to industry level profitability. Cow-calf producers don't get paid for tenderness, but tenderness is a big driver of consumer demand.

Seedstock producers should focus on the indexes that influence their customer's profitability. If a seedstock producer's customers retain ownership, then the seedstock producer should focus on the terminal index. If the majority of the customers retain females and sell at weaning, then the seedstock producer should focus on the maternal index.

Progeny receive half of their genetic material from each parent.
Breeding Value = 1/2 Sire Breeding Value + 1/2 Dam Breeding Value + Theta.
What is theta? Theta is the Mendelian sampling term. This accounts for the random sample of genes a calf inherited from its sire and dam. Even really good bulls can produce bad calves due to this random shuffle of genes (see fact sheet).

Seedstock producers are not truly cattle producers, they are genetic providers. Genetic improvement, driven by accuracy, selection intensity, and generation interval, should be the focus of seedstock producers. Seedstock producers need to realize that using younger sires can decrease their generation interval and increase their genetic progress.

Keep in mind, that a genomic test increases accuracy. The accuracy will always increase, but the EPD estimate can go up or down. But, the incrase in accuracy can allow us to use younger bulls with more confidence.

GE-EPDs allow commercial producers more confidence that they are picking the right bull.

In the past, we have seen producers only testing what they thought were their top bulls. This is not optimum.
At UNL, they have space to put 90 bulls on feed. At weaning they genomically test every bull calf. With the genomic test, they now have EPDs on every trait. Before they were picking bulls somewhat blind. Now they have data and information behind which bulls go on feed.

"Genomics helps breeds the most that already have very sound databases," Spangler said.

One of the things that breed associations do poorly is collectively bargain for the price of technology. In Ireland they negotiated to genotyped all of the cattle in the country. Because they were able to buy one million SNP chips, the cost per tested animal was less than $20.