Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Purebred Cattle Marketing: Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course 2015

Misconceptions Held by Purebreed Breeders
Tommy Perkins

Breeders must report 100% of weaning weight records and calving ease scores. Do you know when a calf was born unassisted? Do you know when a calf needed assistance? Of course you do, either there was a calf on the ground or you had to help it. These two sources of data are valuable and easy to record.

With DNA testing, 7% to 10% of animals are parentage misidentified based on pedigree records. Record keeping is very important. Any bull on your place needs a hair sample or a blood FTA card.
Blood cards are automated and are preferred by the testing companies. Do not put hair or blood cards in plastic bags (moisture will cause problems!); put cards in paper envelope or folder.

Seedstock producers should strive for 100% DNA parentage verification in their herds.

Use the calving ease EPD, and never use the CED and BW EPDs at the same time! (Warning Will Robinson! Double Counting Occurring!)

A Beginner Guide to EPDs
John Ford 
Executive Director
Santa Gertrudis Breeders International

The average life of a purebred breeder is eight years (ranches turn over).

We have a tendency to treat genetic prediction like rocket science. We throw too many complex terms at producers.
We take pedigree (records going back for generations, in Santa Gertrudis all pedigrees can be traced back to registration 1) and combine them with phenotypes (trait measurements).

EPDs minimize risk and maximize profit. The EPDs are estimates are the animals value as a parent. Differences in EPDs between two individuals of the SAME BREED predict DIFFERENCES in performance between their future offspring when mated to animals of the same genetic merit.

Multibreed evaluations work if all of the breeds tie into a common breed. In the Internation Genetic Solutions tie back into an Angus base; Simmental with SimAngus, Red Angus, Limousin with LimFlex, etc.

EPDs rely on records, records, records, and more records.

EPDS are expressed in the units they are measured; i.e. weaning weight is expressed in pounds. Santa Gertrudis is one of 4 breeds with a tenderness EPD.

wile e coyote help photo: Wile E. Coyote. HELP!!! wile-e-coyote.jpgBreed associations are constantly expanding the number of EPDs offered. We can overwhelm commerical cattlemen and breeders with too many EPDs.

Make sure you are meeting your customers needs. If your customers are profitable, as a seedstock producer you will be profitable.

Don't single trait select. But, focus on those traits that help your customers.

Santa Gertrudis was the first beef breed to use single-step genomic predictions.

"Breeders that wish to remain competitive will follow the lead of these two (American Angus Association and American Hereford Association)."
Matt Spangler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Producers do not need to know rocket science. They need to know that EPDs are the best tool to select animals and make genomic progress.

Selling Bulls to Commercial Producers
Bill Pendergrass

Nobody wants to buy ugly bulls. Need to balance structure, look, and EPDs.

Commercial producers want reassurances. All bulls need breeding soundness exams. The bull needs to be ready to go. Have your trichinosis papers and interstate health papers ready to go.

"The experience of losing a sale," said Pendergrass, "teaches you to be prepared."

Step up, man up and register your whole calf crop. This allows your breed to market the breed.
Practice whole herd reporting. Turn in your data, even if genotyping.

Carcass does not, though it is not the end all. This is another opportunity for customer assurance and can be a selling point. You can show your customers that you are working for improvement.

"Nothing in the history of livestock has come close to EPDs." said Pendergrass. Genomic EPDs are a game changer, as advertised.

You need to hand visiting customers a performance pedigree.

Have a current bull listing with identification, horn score, color, EPDs, and price. Be sure to update list after every sale. Educate producers about using EPDs and wean them away from looking at actual performance records.
"It is your responsibility as a capitalist to know the market." Look at bull sales in your area, even if they are of a different breed.

When you get a bull sold, get them out of the pen and off the list.

Data interpretation is vital. You have to be able to explain the data. Know your breed average and know the percentile ranking of your bulls. Help the customer go where they need to go. Be scenario driven, ask about their operation and their needs and lead them to solutions in your inventory. Know the experience level of your customer.

Breeders should become fluent in other breeds by understanding heterosis, learning about other breeds, understanding breed complementarity, and remember crossbreeding is inevitable. Understanding what is going on in other breeds opens up knew marketing opportunities.

"If you are not going to AI you need to get out of the seedstock difference. You will not be able to keep up," With out AI you will not be able to increase your genetic trend, your percentile ranking will not be where it needs to be, and your marketing opportunities are decreased.

You need to have purchase protection. You need to stand behind your bulls. Of course, don't let people abuse you. Consider buyer protection, breeding guarantees, bull warranties, and three years. These purchase protections need to be clear, concise and easy to understand. Build 5% bull returns into your budget.

Premium services, the highest level, is marketing assistance to your customers. Help customers place feeder cattle. You should be very willing to enter retained ownership partnership. At the very minimum offer to pay for their carcass data. At the end of the day, help your customers market their cattle. It creates return customers.

Pendergrass considers advertising a necessary evil. Local print media is helpful and hits your target demographic. Regional publications and breed specific commercial publications are also helpful. For the next generation, internet advertising is going to be essential. Social media marketing requires you to be subtle.

Do not ask how many cows they run. It is like asking how much money they have in the bank account. You also need to know the forage base of your customers (fescue anyone???).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Heterozygosity and heterosis considerations for the beef industry: Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course 2015

Andy Herring
Texas A&M University

We can classify traits as qualitatively inherited and quantitatively inherited.
With qualitative traits, characteristics can be placed into a small number of distinct categories. Natural environment does not affect these traits. A small number of genes affect these traits. Examples include coat color or horned vs. polled.
Quantitative traits are measured on a continuous scale, influenced by the environment, and a large number of genes influence these traits. Examples include growth.

Additive genetics refers to the effect of inheriting a beneficial allele increasing performance in an additive manner [additive inheritance can also be easily predicted]. For example consider the A gene. If a calf has two copies of the A2 variant (genotype is A2A2) it has a breeding value (twice the EPD) of 0. If we add an A1 variant (the genotype is A1A2), this calf has a breeding value of 10. If we add a second A1 variant (the genotype is A1A1), this calf has a breeding value of 20. We can do this for multiple genes.

Genotype     Breeding Value
A1A1B1B1     40
A1A2B1B1     30
A1A1B1B2     30
A1A2B1B2     20
A1A1B2B2     20
A2A2B1B1     20
A2A2B1B2     10
A1A2B2B2     10
A2A2B2B2     0

The additive effects of genes determines the breeding value. But, the actual performance of the animal can be different from the breeding value due to the effects of the gene which are not additive (non-additive, dominance, epistasis, etc.). These non-additive effects can lead to hybrid vigor (the progeny outperform the average of the parents). When a large portion of the trait is due to additive genetics (narrow-sense heritability is high) then there is little hybrid vigor. When a small portion of the trait is due to additive genetics (narrow-sense heritability is low) then there is much hybrid vigor.

The increase in gestation length and increase birth weight in Brahman and humpless cattle (British or Continental) appears to be due to the effects of the embryo, not the uterine environment. The hybrid vigor (heterosis) effects do not behave according to predictions based on the generation of the cross (crossing two F1s to make an F2 is the second generation of crossing). For some traits we don't see a decrease in performance that we would expect between an F1 and an F2. There is a lot about genetics that we still don't understand the details.

Genetics for Today's Cattlemen (and Women): Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course 2015

Tonya Amen
Genetic Services Director, Angus Genetics Inc.

How do you make genetic change in your herd? By choosing the parents (bulls, replacement heifers, etc.). What tools do you use to make those decisions?

Performance is determined by genetics and environment. Environment can be defined by everything that happens from conception to slaughter that is not controlled by environment. Genetics can be split into additive effects and non-additive effects.

The Evolution of Livestock Measurement
  1. Average Daily Gain
  2. Within Herd Ratios
  3. Expected Progeny Differences
  4. Economic Indexes
  5. Genomics
An EPD is the best estimate of that animals worth as a parent. 
Let's consider an example.
Bull A has a weaning weight EPD of 60 lbs.
Bull B has a weaning weight EPD of 40 lbs. 
If we breed both bulls to a large number of cows in the same environment, Bull A's calves will weight 20 lbs heavier on average.

That 20 pound difference can mean $6,000 difference in the farmer's or rancher's take home pay (30 calves per bull, current market prices).

EPDs are used to shift the population. We still have low performers and high performers, but the average of the group is different.

Accuracy is a measure of how much data went into estimating that EPD and how much we can expect that EPD to change in the future when we collect more data. A pedigree estimate EPD is half of the sire's EPD and dam's EPD, and AAA assigns an accuracy of 0.05. Full siblings (flush mates, etc,) are assigned the same pedigree EPD (average of sire and dam) at birth. But, these full siblings can share no genes in common, so this best estimate does not reflect the true difference between these full siblings. A pedigree estimate calving ease EPD with accuracy of 0.05 can increase or decrease by 7.8.

What is the challenge with classic EPDs? It takes a long time to get enough data to produce higher accuracy (more reliable) EPDs. 

Calving ease direct is a measure of how easily a sire's calves are born. Calving ease maternal is how easily a sire's daughters deliver their calves.

From 1990 to 2003 93% of heifers calved with no problems, but during this same period about 2% were very difficult births. Since 2004, 96% of heifers calved with no problems and the percentage of hard pulls were cut in half.

Since 1992, mature weight in Angus has basically leveled off (increase is slow), birth weight has decreased, but weaning weight and yearling weight continue to improve in a straight line year after year.

Genomic-enhanced EPDs allow commercial breeders to buy animals with more confidence and allow seedstock breeders to sell animals that will perform to their customers expectations.

Don't look at genomic scores and genomic-enhanced EPD, you are double counting the genomic information and giving it more weight than it deserves. Look at the genomic-enhanced EPD!

Amen stated, "Genomics allows us to peak under the hood earlier in the life of the animal."
Genomics gives the same information as 9 to 21 progeny. It is like buying a bull with 21 progeny with calving records.

Profit = Revenue - Expense
EPDs have been really helpful in increasing outputs. Economic selection indexes can improve outputs, revenue, inputs and expense.

Keep in mind $B is a terminal index. If you are a commercial cow-calf producer selling your cattle at weaning, you are not getting paid for performance in the feedlot or on the rail. $W is important index is cow-calf settings.

Selection and Use of Breeds and Breedtypes: Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course 2015

Joe Paschal
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Calf value is not price per pound. Calf value is the sum of genetic and management decisions and cost. Many factors go into management decisions, including genetics, reproduction, preweaning care, weaning, and marketing.

Since the 1950s, we have been concerned with matching cattle to their environment. Need to match forage availability and stress of the environment to the milking ability, mature size, ability to store energy, stress tolerance, calving ease, and lean to fat ratio of the cow (see Texas Adapted Genetic Strategiesfor Beef Cattle I: An Overview for more information). The first step is to select the breeds you will use in your operation; breed averages can be used to make these decisions (see Texas Adapted Genetic Strategies for Beef Cattle V:Type and Breed Characteristics and Uses for more information). Your cattle need to have an identity.
Brahman bulls used on British heifers have a higher birth weight; need to be very careful with this.

There are two different breeding systems.


  • Produces own replacements
  • Uniform
  • Select breed to match marketing and with most desireable traits
  • No hybrid vigor
  • Easy


  • planned, not an mongrelization!!!
  • Combine breeds to fit marketing situations and environments
  • Some produce own replacements
  • Be careful of uniformity
  • Add or change breeds to correct faults
  • More adaptable
  • Hybrid vigor in crossbred (a cummalative effect)

What does the industry want?
1/4 of less Bos indicus (Brahman)
At least 1/4 or 1/2 British
No more than 1/2 Continental
No more than 1/4 Dairy

How can you get there?
Straightbred British
British x British
Continental-British crosses
Brahman-British x British or Continental
Brahman-Continental x British
Straightbred American
American x American
American x British
American x Continental

Hybrid vigor makes up for a lot of mistakes. Functional cows don't have to be pretty. You might be in love with your cattle or bred, but what about buyers down the line?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Greenley Research Center hosts 38th Annual Field Day

Miranda Wilson, from the Decker Computational Genomics Group, will be presenting at the 38th Annual Field Day at the University of Missouri Greenley Research Center Tuesday August 4th from 8am to 12pm. She will be discussing "EPDs and Indexes: What You Need To Know".

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Red Angus Releases Herd Navigator DNA test

The Red Angus Association of America has enabled more particular selection of Red Angus commercial females. The Herd Navigator reports breed percentile ranks for the RAAA HerdBuilder and GridMaster indexes, plus 13 EPD traits. The percentile ranks mean a score of 50 is average, a score of 1 is in the top 1 percent (cream of the crop) and a score of 99 is in the bottom 1 percent (bottom of the barrel). The interpretation of these percentile rankings is the same as Red Angus EPDs but is opposite to other commercial heifer panels. The test is marketed for $25 per female. The producer is required to own at least one registered Red Angus bull and the registration must be transferred to the producer (or show involvement with RAAA, such as large semen orders). If the possible sires of the females have been genotyped at GeneSeek for genomic-enhanced EPDs, then the parentage of the females will also be reported to the commercial producer. This is helpful if the commercial producer has used a combination of A.I. and a clean-up bull or multiple-sire pastures.
The HerdBuilder and GridMaster indexes allow a producer to select for profit, i.e. the producer selects to increase revenue and decrease costs. The HerdBuilder index is used if replacement females will be retained from the calf crop. The GridMaster index is used if the entire calf crop will be feed out for beef. Even though the HerdBuilder index accounts for raising replacement females it uses all available traits from conception to slaughter and weights each trait by its economic importance. Economic indexes are the optimal method of multiple trait selection. While the producer can set cutoffs for a small number of traits, such as calving ease or milk, the animals that meet those cutoffs should be ranked by the appropriate economic index.
Although the Herd Navigator is based on several thousands of DNA variants, through a process called imputation, the producer gets basically the same amount of information as the Red Angus RA50K genomic prediction test.
Previously, commercial breeders selected heifers based on age, weight, or perhaps the genetics of the sire. Now, commercial producers using Red Angus genetics can select heifers based on a variety of traits that match their production goals. The Red Angus Herd Navigator test joins a growing list of commercial heifer genomic prediction panels.

For more information see:
Herd Navigator Guiding Commercial Female Selection
Guiding Commercial Female Selection - Red Angus Association of America Releases Herd Navigator