Bob Hough Comments on Changes at Breed Associations

Bob Hough recently posted the following comment on Facebook (posted with his permission):
Early in my career at a breed association, the much beloved American Angus breed executive told me that the secret to success running a breed association was to have a top junior program, keep the books straight, and make sure the numbers (EPDs) don't change. This philosophy meant Angus valued stability in their genetic predictions over keeping them up-to-date with the latest science. The Angus Association also marketed extremely effectively the infallibility of their EPDs because of the size of their database. I will start with the later. Yes, a database needs certain critical mass to make sure the animals are tied, but that can be achieved in a modest size database. After that, data quality far and away outweighs data quantity in assuring the most precise and reliable EPDs possible. On the former point, Angus breeders are simply not use to change. This is not the case in most breed associations whose genetic analysis are in a continuous state of improvement. If you are always improving your genetic analysis, the changes in the predictions are rarely noticeable by your average producer. That brings us to recent times where many Angus Association members will not accept change because they already believe their genetic predictions are beyond reproach because of the size of the database. However, their analysis had simply fallen behind, so the Association correctly changed their philosophy to keep their model up-to-date as well as improve the quality of their database through programs like Maternal Plus. These desperately needed changes have been difficult for the membership to accept because they have been marketed to them for decades the infallibility of their database and genetic predictions that are based on it. One area the Association has traditionally led the industry is in the development of indexes, but in-explicitly the index that became paramount in most producers selection programs was the terminal $B, which has moved the breed away from the maternal excellence that was its hallmark. If you need proof of this, one only needs to look at the Superior data Kansas State has analyzed where black Angus heifer calves and bred heifers sell at a considerable discount to Red Angus. To solve this problem, the Association desperately needs to offer an additional index to their existing indexes that covers the whole production cycle, which is more commonly known as an all purpose index. That way if breeders use single trait selection, they have the option of using an index that is much better rounded towards the profitability of the entire beef industry. Currently the Angus membership is in an uproar in some segments about some proposed changes, which includes an all purpose type index. They really need to step back and look at their situation in totality. I think if they do, they will be excited about the proposed changes rather than perplexed and upset about them. I will leave you this. Years ago when Dr. John Pollak was asked about an improvement in the genetic predictions for a breed they were working with meant the old predictions were wrong. His answer was profound, "The old genetic predictions were right, but just not as right as they ever will be."

 Bob's comment is spot on. As I have said in the past, true animal breeders need to be open to change. As I said at the NCBA Cattlemen's College in New Orleans, Angus breeders and their customers should welcome with open arms a new maternally-focus, all-purpose index. Take the Hereford CHB$ and BMI$ indexes as examples ( The CHB$ index is a terminal index like the Angus $B index. It has strong emphasis on Carcass Weight, Ribeye Area, Dry Matter Intake (i.e. feed efficiency), and other performance and carcass traits. However, the all-purpose index, BMI$, puts most of its emphasis on fertility and cow-calf traits (with some emphasis on performance in the feedlot and on the rail).

The $W index is outdated. In takes into account Birth Weight, Weaning Weight, Mature Weight, and Milk. Birth Weight is not even an economically relevant trait! Calving Ease is. Further, important traits like Heifer Pregnancy aren't even included. For a breed that gained it's market share based on a terminal program, Certified Angus Beef, an all-purpose index that meets the needs of all parts of the beef industry should be welcomed and embraced.


John McQuaid said…
The industry is changing, like us, we deliver fresh meat daily -
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