Monday, October 30, 2017

TRC Field Day: The Most Important Trait in Beef Cattle Selection?

What is the most important trait in beef cattle selection? Watch Jared Decker's presentation from the Thompson Research Center Field Day to find out.

Friday, October 27, 2017

AHA Educational Session: Hereford Leading the Industry

Jack Ward
AHA Executive Vice President

Kevin Oschner was the consultant helping with the AHA Strategic Plan.

Oschner interviewed:
  • Hereford breeders
  • Seedstock producers from other breeds
  • Commercial cow-calf producers
  • Bull stud and reproduction professional
  • Extension service personnel
  • Auctioneer
  • Packers
They also sent a survey to all AHA membership. They had 518 participants from 43 states.

Oschner then organized the information. Webinars were then held with the board of directors.
They then had a 2 and a half day session to create the strategic plan.

They also brought in outside thought leaders, which included
  • John Lundeen, NCBA
  • Joe Pawlak, Technomics
  • John Butler, Beef Marketing Group
  • Mitch Abrahamsen, Ph.D., Recombinetics
  • Clint Schwab, Ph.D., The Maschoff's

Mitch Abrahamsen

The consumer is interested in how their food is made. The consumer can use social media to reach through to the food provider (McDonalds, Subway, Walmart, etc.). The restaurant then talks to their provider, the provider then asks the genetic supplier for answers. The breeding companies then have to respond.
Today there are two broiler breeding companies in the world, each has about 50% of the market. This is because they could respond to consumer concerns.

Who are your competitors? You might think it is Brazil or other nations, but it is really chicken and aquaculture and the feed conversion they bring.

Jack Ward
Kevin Oschner summarized the work and shared it with the AHA board. The AHA board then voted unanimously to accept the plan.

The Core Strategies now include:
  • Develop and use genetic technology
  • Expand educational opportunities
  • Improve demand for Hereford genetics
  • Develop and capitalize on "Team Hereford"
  • Expand junior membership engagement
  • Grow Certified Hereford Beef

Hereford does a good job marketing cattle in the Midwest. They need to do a better job getting the marketing to the coast. But, the Association staff can't do this alone. They need the help of "Team Hereford", which represents the local, state, and national level of producer involvement.

What can we do to reach those junior members who don't make it to the Hereford junior national? Ward and his staff created the Hereford Steer Feedout to reach out to additional junior member.

How do you measure progress?
AHA is using the Hereford Demand Index (HDI).
They are going to look at the Hereford Bull/Feeder Calf Price Ratio. This is the ratio of Hereford bull prices (removing those that sell for more than $15,000) to the average feeder calf price.
The HDI also looked at Hereford Semen Sales reported by NAAB, the AHA annual registrations, and CHB pounds sold.

AHA is moving their advertising more into digital and away from print.

To participate in the AHA Reference Sire program a herd needs to have 180 head of cattle. AHA wants to collect additional feed intake data.

AHA Educational Session: Maximizing Profit

Trey Befort
AHA Director of Commercial Programs

Brent Lowderman
Carthage Livestock, Inc.

Case Gabel 

Hereford Advantage Program is a genetic merit feeder cattle program which looks at the bull batteries going into commercial programs. A commercial producer using Hereford bulls sends in the registration numbers for their bull battery. The Hereford Advantage Program then shows, compared to breed average, where these bulls sit. This is used to market the calves.

In 2003, John Meents approached Lowderman about having a Hereford influenced cattle. They started with 150 head, and last year they had over 800. Calves need to have two rounds of shots. Needs to be castrated and dehorned. They then break the calves into lots based on 100 pounds increments to group them into similar lots (steers between 450 and 550 pound, between 550 and 650, etc.). Heifers are broken into lots by 75 pound breaks. The Hereford sale is within 1 to 3 dollars of the Angus influenced sale that is held within the next week.

Owns three feed yards and is a cattle buyer for thousands of other cattle.
It is so important that cattle are sold as load lots that are uniform and consistent. The more information Gabel can receive is better. Cattle in the Hereford Advantage Program come with a reputation. The cattle buyer becomes much more comfortable.
Seedstock producers can call a cattle buyer to let them know about a commercial customer’s calf crop. Gabel needs to buy 7,000 cattle a week to keep up with his sale barns.

Health Programs
Cattle need to have two rounds of shots. This is usually at branding and preconditioning. Gabel prefers modified live vaccines.
Even with co-mingling cattle through the Midwest Hereford Influence sale, Lowderman has not seen any train wrecks in terms of health. But, the cattle need to be weaned 40 days and have the two rounds of shots.

They also see some mineral deficiencies. Reporting your mineral program can be helpful as well.

Close Outs of Herefords
The genetic improvement in the Hereford cattle have probably been as big as any breed association. Hot carcass yield has been a percentage less than other breeds and crossbreds; this has been the most common concern. The dressing percentage has been an issue.

Gabel would prefer to feed an F1 crossbred steer. The performance on an F1 is going to be better than a straightbred.

We all understand condition, flesh, and maturity. We don’t put enough value on known genetics, Gabel said.

Having a breed-influenced sale helps those producers that have 15 to 20 calves. Co-mingling the cattle produces those consistent lots.

Hereford-specific sales may be a great opportunity, especially out West. “This can create some more demand,” said Gabel.

There also may be more economic incentives for EID (Electronic IDentification).

Genetics and health are the easiest things to manage. They are going to have the largest return on investment over 10 to 20 years.

How can we get that small group of calves to the Midwest Hereford Sale?
Lowderman organizes trucks to pick up cattle and producers pay for the trucking on a per head basis. Even with this added cost, they still see improved profits for these cattle.
Gabel also stated that seedstock producers could be the person to organize this trucking for their commercial customers

These are the four boxes cattle have to meet for Gabel to be interested:
  • Reputation
  • Genetics
  • Condition and Health
  • Weigh up

In Gabel's opinion, for producers, the increased gain from implanting their calves outweighs any premium they would see from not implanting.

Certain packers are still going to push back on Hereford cattle. This push back is mostly due to dressing percentage and yield. However, black baldies will bring a premium every day of the week.
The negative connotation around Herefords has dwindled over the last 5 years.

If you take Hereford influenced cattle to the sale barn, you will see a discount. However, if you have a Hereford specific sale, this discount basically goes away.

Decker's Thoughts
As has been previously shown, an AI sync protocol really improves the consistency by reducing the spread in the ages of the calves. Genetic marketing plans are going to grow as producers progressively improve their herds and seek a premium for those calves.

Monday, October 23, 2017

TRC Field Day: How Have Quality Premiums Changed with Lower Cattle Prices?

Scott Brown, MU Extension agricultural economist, discusses the premiums for cattle with Prime grades. Can cattle that grade Prime be a risk management strategy?

Recorded at the MU CAFNR Thompson Research Center Field Day, September 21, 2017.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Update on Structure EPD Development

NBCEC Brown Bagger presentation by Bob Weaber
Kansas State University

Longevity can help offset the cost of developing or purchasing replacement females. Structure is an economically important trait.

Dairy cattle have done a better job measuring and creating genetic predictions for feet and leg structure.

There has been a moderate genetic relationship with type traits and longevity and functional longevity (Dekkers et al. 1994).

The Australian Angus Association has looked at the genetics of feet and legs.
They now have EBVs for
front angle
front claw
rear angle
read claw
rear leg rear view
rear leg side view

There are currently no genetic evaluations of feet and leg traits in u.S. beef cattle. The American Angus Association is actively collecting data to create EPDs for these traits.

Weaber and colleagues were able to get funding from Kansas State University, Red Angus Association of America, and American Simmental Association to look at over all structure of animals. They recorded 14 traits on 1,885 Red Angus cattle.

It took two to three and a half minutes per animal to score.

1,720 animals were included in the prototype evaluation.

The Front Hoof Angle and Front Heel Depth had genetic correlation of 0.89. The correlations between Front Hoof Angle, Front Heel Depth, Rear Hoof Angle, and Rear Heel Depth were all above 0.85.

Those cattle that were more structurally correct had better body condition scores.

There were also strong correlations between rear hoof measurements and rear leg measurements.

Front Side View had a strong association with overalll structural soundness.

Feet and leg traits tend to have low to moderate heritability. Limb information is a useful indicator trait of structural soundness. Genetic predictions would be useful to improve structural soundness.

Monday, October 16, 2017

TRC Field Day: Winter Nutrition for Beef Cows

Eric Bailey, MU Extension beef nutrition specialist, discusses winter nutrition for beef cows. One of the practices that we see commonly in Nebraska, but less so in Missouri, is grazing corn stalks. Dr. Bailey discusses opportunities and limitations of this practice.

Recorded at the MU CAFNR Thompson Research Center Field Day, September 21, 2017.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Show-Me-Plus™ Heifers to Sell in Joplin

The Southwest Show-Me-Select™ Replacement Heifer Sale will be November 17th, 2017 at 7 PM at the Joplin Regional Stockyards. Video preview and sale may be viewed at and DVAuction on-line bidding may be arranged in advance.

A Show-Me-Plus™ heifer is a registered or commercial heifer that has genomic predictions. For a registered heifer, this means she has GE-EPDs. For commercial heifers, it means she has been tested with a DNA panel
providing genomic predictions.

The following lots contain Show-Me-Plus™ heifers.

DJV Cattle Co., Edwards 573-345-3404
15, Angus and Angus cross heifers; all heifers have been GeneMax tested which qualifies them as Show-Me-Plus; all are synchronized and AI bred to calve on February 20; our first SMS sale.

Service Sire Breed CE/
AI – GAR Prophet Angus 11/

Goodnight Angus Farm, Carthage 417-459-2558
4, home-raised registered Angus heifers; complete performance data; genomically tested with GGP LD test; Show-Me-Plus qualified; tested and negative for Neospora; AI breds due January 24; cleanups due March 5 to March 19; our 4th SMS sale.
Service Sire Breed CE/
AI – GAR Sure Fire Angus 16/
AI – GAR Prophet Angus 11/
NS– Jacs Blackjack 5124 Angus 12/

Circle S Chicks (Dusty & Val Sturgeon), Stark City 417-489-0039
100, Red Angus heifers; 70 were synchronized and AI bred are due to calve February 1; 30 head are pasture exposed only and will calve from February 21 to March 23; preg tested via ultrasound and were fetal-sexed; genomically tested with Red Angus Herd Navigator which makes them Show-Me-Plus heifers; our 5th SMS sale.
Service Sire Breed CE/
AI – Andras Fuslon R236 Red Angus 16/
NS – Bieber Fusion C168 Red Angus 13/
NS – Bieber Rou Stormy D37 Red Angus 10/
NS – Bieber Takeout D408 Red Angus 11/
NS – Bieber Acc Scc Triumph D109 Red Angus 10/

5C Ranch Inc./Scott Casey, El Dorado Springs 417-296-1276
10, home-raised Angus & Angus cross heifers with Hereford influence; have used Angus bulls for 15 years; herd of 300 cows are Top Dollar Angus qualified; these sale heifers are Genemax Focus tested thus are Show-Me-Plus; grown on fescue with daily hand feeding; several of these 10 head are out of SMS females we’ve bought; carcass data from our herd the last 2 years show, 90% Choice/Prime; 4 lbs ADG; 30% Certified Angus Beef; 6:1 feed:gain; 5% were yield grades 4 & 5’s; Synchronized and AI bred to calve February 11; cleanup breds due February 19 to February 24; our first consignment to the SMS sale.
Service Sire Breed CE/
AI – Thomas Top Hand 0536 Angus 12/
NS– HPCA G A R Prophet 301 Angus 14/
NS– HPCA All In 565 Angus 18/

Thursday, October 12, 2017

TRC Field Day: Sex-Sorted Semen

Jordan Thomas, a PhD candidate in David Patterson's group, presented on the use of sex-sorted semen in the beef industry at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Thompson Research Center Field Day.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Calving Ease and the Law of Diminishing Returns

Red angus cows oregon
By Darcy Vial
USDA FSA Oregon via Wikimedia Commons
Written by Tom Brink
Reprinted from the Red Angus eNews - October 4, 2017

Calving ease is especially important in first-calf females, and is therefore something we pay close attention to when breeding virgin heifers. In fact, calving ease considerations usually rank first on the list when selecting bulls to use on heifers.  

Red Angus bulls often see service on heifers thus, mapping the relationship between calving ease EPDs (CED) and unassisted births is a worthwhile task. The better Red Angus breeders understand this relationship, the better selection and mating decisions they can make for themselves and their customers.

The curved line shown in the chart below was statistically derived from tens of thousands of Red Angus calving records stored in the RAAA database. All of the calvings are from first parity females bred to bulls ranging from -8 to 20 for CED. This line captures the “average” or “typical” experience calving heifers as the sires’ CED goes from the low end to the high end of the Red Angus bell curve.  

As expected, bulls with a higher CED produce a greater number of unassisted births. Conversely, bulls with low single digit or negative CEDs generally cause more calving difficulty. The shape of the curve also provides useful perspective. Note that moving from -8 to 0 for CED results in a sharp increase in unassisted births. That’s obviously a good thing. It’s also why we don’t see many heifers bred to negative CED bulls.    

Unassisted births improve further when moving from a CED of 0 up to the 8-10 area. This improvement is significant in magnitude, but the incremental benefit of each additional one-point increase in CED is now becoming smaller as the law of diminishing returns is taking effect. 

Moving up the curve from a 10 to 15 CED provides a bit more benefit but the incremental advantage is now very small. Over 15, the line flattens out completely, which means there is no practical difference in unassisted births for bulls having CEDs ranging from 15 to 20 or above.  Unless a group of heifers are small in size, have inadequate pelvic area, and/or are underdeveloped at the time of calving, we would not expect any difference in calving difficulty between a bull with a CED of 14 or 15 versus one whose CED is 19 or 20. In that zone, the law of diminishing returns is in full control, stamping out any more benefit completely.

As a final thought, don’t forget that EPD accuracies matter a great deal when making mating decisions in which calving ease is critical. It may in some situations be better to use a high-accuracy bull with a lower but still acceptable CED instead of one with a higher CED that is unproven with low accuracy.

Decker's Take Home Message
It is so easy to want to select for maximums. We need to remind ourselves to select for optimums. 
The Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program requires Red Angus service sires to have a CED EPD greater than 8. Artificial insemination (AI) sires must have an EPD accuracy greater than 0.6.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Reverend Bayes and Cattle Breeding

Thomas Bayes
Reverend Bayes
via Wikimedia Commons
You are asking yourself, who is Reverend Bayes and what does he have to do with cattle? The answer to this question will answer a major misconception in cattle genetics.

Reverend Bayes was an 18th century Presbyterian minister. He was also trained in logic. Due to Bayes’ work on probabilities, an approach to statistics called Bayesian statistics is named after him. In Bayesian statistics, we start with a prior belief (prior probability). As more information and data are gathered, we update this prior belief. We call this new update a posterior belief. We continue this process as we collect additional data. Further, a key tenant of Bayesian statistics is evaluating the methods (i.e. models) used in our analysis. Statisticians and scientists did not frequently use this system of statistics in the early 20th century. But, with increased computing power, Bayesian statistics has become very popular in the 21st century.

White Bull
By Lutz Koch
Cattle genetic prediction is very much Bayesian. We start with a prior belief. For genetic predictions (e.g. EPDs), this prior is the parental average. The parental average is half of the sire’s genetic prediction plus half of the dam’s genetic prediction. This prior prediction is not only based on quantitative genetics theory, but biology as well. If we mated the same sire and dam hundreds of times to produce hundreds of progeny, the average breeding value of those progeny would be the parental average.

When we receive new data on an animal, an important step happens. We update our prediction! Every calf receives a random sample of its sire’s and dam’s genetics. As we collect data on the animal, either its own performance, the performance of its progeny, or genomic test results, we now have information to sort out this random sample of genetic effects the animal received from its parents. The amount of variation associated with this random shuffle of genes between generations is quite large. In typical situations, the amount of variance between full siblings (same sire and dam) is equal to half of the variance in the entire population. This random sample of genes is unknown. It takes data to identify how an individual animal’s breeding value is different from its parental average. Thus, as we update predictions based on new data, it improves the prediction, making it closer to its unknown true value. We continue this updating process until we reach enough certainty that we call this animal a “proven” parent.

Not only do predictions change by updating the data, but also occasionally, we improve the statistical models used to estimate them. In the early 2000s, many dairy breeds added fertility traits to their economic indexes (breeding objectives). Prior to this, the genetic trend for fertility had been negative and the fertility of dairy herds was decreasing. After this change to the indexes, genetic merit for fertility increased and dairy herds became more fertile.

Several beef breed associations have recently switched or are in the process of switching from multi-step genomic prediction to single-step genomic prediction. Concurrent with this switch, several other changes will be made to the statistical models. For example, July 7, 2017 Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) updated the evaluation of carcass traits for the American Angus Association. When producers were turning in carcass data it tended to be actual carcass data from low performing bulls who became steers or ultrasound data from the very best animals. This was not a random sample. It was a biased sample from a selected set of animals, which were either the very worst or the very best. In other words, there was selection bias. But, by fitting weaning weights as a correlated trait in the analysis of carcass data AGI removed this selection bias. This improved the genetic predictions.

As Nate Silver and Philip Tetlock have both written, the best predictions update as they receive new data. Yet, when a recently purchased animal quickly losses value as data and models are updated, this causes anxiety and alarm for many cattle breeders. When confronted with these situations, livestock breeders need to remind themselves of two facts.

  1. When they made the purchase, they used the best available predictions. 
  2. The new answer will serve them better in the long run. 

Imagine if predictions are not updated, or we stick our head in the sand and ignore updated predictions. In this scenario, our customers will become frustrated because what we are saying in our marketing is not matching real world performance. We can either swallow the bitter pill now resulting in happy, confident customers. Or, we can ignore the truth and end up with unhappy, distrusting customers.

Cattle breeders can use this updating process to their advantage by collecting and reporting data. Collect all the data that you can afford based on financial, time, and labor resources. Make sure the data you report is accurate (clean data). Do not guess on weights or use birth weight tapes. Report actual weights recorded on a scale! Turn in complete data. Record and report data on every calf born on your farm. Do not pick and choose which data you report; report all of it. Otherwise, you are simply biasing the predictions.

Updated predictions are valuable. Although updates may be uncomfortable in the short term, these updates make predictions more accurate. These updated predictions increase the precision of genetic predictions, improve the rate of genetic progress, and advance the sustainability, including profitability, of our cattle enterprises. By using updated predictions, we separate the signal from the noise and reap the benefit of modern statistics.

Written for the Fall 2017 MWI Veterinary Update.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Brownfield: Gene by Environment Cattle Research

beef research and teaching farm_south farm_summer_0046
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Julie Harker of Brownfield Ag News.

Head over to Brownfield Ag News to listen to our conversation. At Mizzou, we are working to create new tools that will stack the deck for farmers and ranchers to be more sustainable. That sustainability includes environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and, perhaps most importantly, profitability.

Thanks to Julie for taking time to conduct the interview and publish it!