Still Confusion With EPD’s and GE-EPD’s

EPD’s. While touted by those whom they benefit most as so, so important are at best frustrating.  We hear of sires that were once at the top 25% with over 2000 progeny drop to the bottom 25% overnight make you question the numbers and those who are manipulating them.

EPD’s, as you know, are a tool that we all should use in the cattle business, as a guide. Genomically Enhanced (GE) EPD’s tell an even a better story as DNA doesn’t lie. As with all technology, whether it is computers or cattle; many things become obsolete in a very short time.

As far as bulls go; If you buy a 2 yr old bull – his 1st calf crop won’t have made it through the system; birth to harvest until he is 4 yrs old; his 2nd calf crop as a 5 yr old; 3rd calf crop as a 6 yr old and so on.

When looking at young bulls; you will notice that he may have really good EPD’s but with low accuracies, because they don’t have any progeny yet, but in the cases where their Sire’s and Dam’s have high accuracies, theirs should as well, but this is where DNA testing helps improve those accuracies.

Along with DNA testing; we can put bulls into a bull program like American Simmental Association’s (ASA) Carcass Merit Program (CMP).

Bull owners pay the CMP to:
• *Allows for 30 – 60 calves born when a bull is young (15 months) providing real data sooner, thus improving accuracies
• Normally a bull would be a 5 yr old (maybe longer) before he had 60 head of progeny thru the system birth to harvest.
• Allows bull owners to have their bulls used in real world situations in every cattle producing area of the US
• Have data collected from birth to harvest
• Basically for third-party, unbiased data collection
*This program combined with DNA improves the accuracies of the EPD’s in a shorter amount of time.

How do we decide on which bulls to use? Normally I choose bulls with high accuracies for the traits I am interested in improving on. Yes, these are Proven Sires.

When we sell young bulls (14-15 months); those bulls out of High Accuracy Sires and Dams, backed by DNA, will often be your best bet.  Those bulls that show up in the top 25% as youngsters and drop to the bottom 25% in a few years are normally the progeny of Low Accuracy Sires, Sires with no progeny to speak of and/or no DNA backing.

If you can study structure and type, watch the videos of the high numbered cattle out there. It will make you want to choose those that are a little back in the pack. I am convinced that chasing numbers will lead to a herd of cattle that will make you puke.

Again, some of those bulls that show high numbered EPD’s as youngsters and drop in a few years are normally the progeny of Low Accuracy Sires and Dams, Sires with no progeny to speak of and/or sub-fertile Dams and/or no DNA backing. Most bulls fall into this category, sadly.

• Also, many cattlemen don’t understand genetics, well enough, to know how great bulls are made > It takes a great Sire (S) and a great Maternal Grand sire (MGS).
• High Fertility Dams
• Also, bulls that are more balanced across the board are able to help improve more cows, because the cows in most herds all have differing needs for improvement.

Breeding cattle is not something that can be done with a computer, however, more and more of our cattle breeders are doing so because they are being rewarded for it. I think it will come back and bite us. Where are the numbers for structure, udder quality, docility, scrotal size, tight sheath, fleshing quality, etc???

I use the computer to choose High Accuracy Bulls; the ones with a large data set of progeny and those that are backed by DNA. In the end, everyone has differing ideas about what a good bull is, but my analogy for choosing a bull without using GE EPD’s is like buying hay without a forage test — it may be green, touch all the senses, but still be lower in CP and TDN– you just can’t tell by looking.

We have our own set of attributes for a cow to make it here:
1. Structurally Sound
2. Possess High Fertility
3. Phenotype Typical of the Breed
4. Good Udder Attachment and Teat Placement
5. Moderate Milk Production
6. Superb Reproductive Performance
7. Great Disposition
8. Great Mothering Ability
9. Calving Interval < 365 Days
10. Weaning Weight of Calves at 50% of Dam’s Weight
11. Calve Annually Unassisted
12. Show Capacity
13. Longevity / Stay-ability
14. Puberty at an Early Age
15. Moderate Frame
16. Easy Fleshing on Available Resources (Grazing Only)
17. Good Carcass Merit Qualities
18. Moderate Mature Weight
19. Good Maternal Calving Ease Traits
20. Average or better for all EPD’s of Economic Importance

For bulls, I really think that bulls from your immediate area (200 mile radius) will do the best jobs being already acclimated to the environment, forages, etc..

We try to make up fictitious numbers for important qualities such as “maintenance energy” yet the cattle do not match the numbers. Extreme calving ease numbers with monster yearling weight epds probably only occur in our fantasies yet they are common when performing epd searches.

I wouldn’t agree that they are fictitious numbers, rather are data that has been added to the system by those of us in Total Herd Enrollment Programs. (i.e. ASA’s THE or CMP). Here again, those calves born out of GE-EPD high accuracy Sires and proven GE-EPD Dam’s usually have better EPD’s than your run of the mill average calf— this is why some people do it in the first place. Plus it adds needed info to the database. Information is still King.

Low milk sires are great if you have a happy herd builder index because they lead to stability but are disasters if they don’t come from a handful of pedigrees in which it is a good trait. WTF?? I get confused trying to interpret these numbers and I have 3 degrees.

This is the reason I quit being a member of RAAA; these numbers they dreamed up. I am still a Member of ASA and a participant of the THE, since the beginning.

The Red Angus numbers are weighted the most for Stay (longevity), which is going against Mother Nature. Mother Nature doesn’t put longevity of the parent highest on her list, rather she puts the needs of the young (in this case calves) first. You won’t last long tryin’ the buck Ma Nature. That dog just won’t hunt.

So, the Red Angus Herd Builder Index is highly weighted for Stay. When I look at Red Angus, I see some help is needed in WW, YW, ADG, MCE, MWW, Marb, YG, MM, BF, Shr…. they need A LOT of help, yet Red Angus has decided to weight their best trait (Stay) the most, which does nothing for Milk, Marbling, Udder Quality, scrotal; we can go on and on.

When you take your best trait and weight it the most in your indexes your other traits that need improvement will never improve. This appeases membership as everyone looks rosy, but at the same time does a disservice to everyone buying Red Angus cattle.

If you want improvement, say in MCE (which is terrible in Red Angus), then more weight has to be given to MCE in the parameters of the Index. What then happens is seedstock breeders apply more selection pressure toward that trait and wa-la (Voila) –we have improvement. This is not rocket science –this is common sense.

I guess it is best to blindly follow the numbers so it is not your fault when the cattle disappoint. Not your fault, the numbers said the cattle would be great. Sweet dreaming. We will use EPD’s as tools but cannot and will not allow them to ruin our cattle.


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