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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Deciphering Through the Bull

Recently, I was looking over a bull sale and noticed the cooperators had gone out and determined how they would base quality rather than using the mainstream tried and proven way to do so. Here are their quality parameters in blue.

Quotes from Powerline Genetics Bull Sale catalog 2/13/2016

When using EPDs it is best to compare the values of potential herd candidates. The difference between two candidates for some trait indicates the potential increase or decrease in that trait. However, profit is rarely based on a single trait and will be based on a combination of performance measures associated with growth, feed efficiency, and carcass value.

Instead of using the tried and proven method already outlined in American Simmental Association using all the traits of economic importance like CE, BW, WW, YW, ADG, MCE, Milk, MWW, DOC, CW, YG, Marb, BF, REA and Shear; Indexes API and TI and based on sound science; this group decided that only WW, Feed Conversion, CW and Carcass Quality are needed to assist you in your buying decisions and preferences.

They go on to explain their Index called the Power Bull Index (PBI):

A powerful tool that simplifies the selection process is the Power Bull Index (PBI), combining the genetic and profit potential for a bull based on his genetic merit for growth, efficiency and carcass. The index value is measured in dollars per calf marketed.

They reiterate their quality parameters associated with their Index.

The relative emphasis put on traits includes weaning weight (25%), feed conversion (20%), carcass weight (30%), and carcass quality (25 %)

They give you how each quality parameter is weighted in the computation of their Index PBI. On to an example below:

As an example in using the PBI, in Table 2 we present three potential herd bull candidates. Last year Buyer A purchased a bull with a 115 PBI and was very pleased with the calves overall performance but would like to see a slight increase in weaning.

He is interested in either Bull A or B. In order to see the increase in WW desired, Bull B would potentially bring higher calf weaning weights for this buyer.

Alternatively, Buyer B retains ownership on his calves through finishing and markets his feeders on the grid. He is looking to maintain a high percentage of calves grading choice with Yield Grades of 1 or 2. With the highest PBI value of the three bulls and superior REA and MARB and with above average WW performance Bull C is likely the best herd sire candidate for Buyer B.

                 Table 2

          Index                  EPD’s
Bull     PBI        WW     REA     Marb
  A        115           30     0.30      0.25
  B        115           35      0.32     0.20
  C        120          30     0.35      0.30

This looks a lot like a common core math problem to me. Now on to their new definitions:

EPD DEFINITIONS

• BIRTH WEIGHT (BW) – in pounds, predicts the weight at birth of the bull’s progeny compared to progeny of other bulls. A bull with a BW EPD of -1 is expected to have progeny which average 3 lb lighter than progeny of a bull with an EPD of +2.

—————————————————————————

• WEANING WEIGHT (WW) – in pounds is a measure of the weaning growth of a bull’s progeny minus maternal milk production.

This has been altered to fit their needs with the addition of minus Maternal Milk production. You will see later in some of their choices in Sire, with very low MM.

• YEARLING WEIGHT (YW) – evaluates adjusted weight performance to 365 days. Yearling weight is highly correlated to carcass weight and mature size.

This has been altered, as well, with more rhetoric trying to substantiate their Index

• CARCASS WEIGHT (CW) – predictor of an animal’s finish weight in pounds.

 This statement is reaching as well —

• RIBEYE AREA (REA) – measured in square inches between the 12th and 13th rib and adjusted to 365 days. This is a good predictor of the total amount of muscle in the carcass and is highly related to carcass weight.

That, I striked through is an addition to what REA actually stands for, just more rhetoric trying to prove their Index.

• MARBLING (MARB) – This is a 365-day adjusted marbling score measured in USDA marbling degrees. This is the primary factor in USDA quality grades.

More included rhetoric here with adjusted and degrees

• DRY MATTER INTAKE (DMI) – reported in pounds of feed consumed per day with a lower numeric value being associated with less feed consumed on a dry matter basis. When comparing two bulls a lower number indicates lesser feed intake for comparable gains.

—————————————————————————

• POWER BEEF INDEX (PBI) – provides a balanced indicator of a bull’s profitability based on a combination of weaning performance, carcass weight, carcass quality and feed intake.
Adapted from EPD Basics and Definitions, Matt Spangler, Univ. of Nebraska, http://www.ebeef.org.

Again a reiteration of what is included in the PBI Index —

For real definitions of the EPD’s and Indexes associated with Simangus™ you can find those here.

Now scrape your boots off as we enter the sale tent — a look at the bulls. I find it quite interesting that all the bulls associated with this sale are not registered with the American Simmental Association (ASA).

Registration numbers would have been really helpful when making bull buying decisions because looking at EPD’s and Indexes based on Sound Science have a higher degree of reliability than a set of made up quality parameters that only further the agendas of a few co-operating chuckleheads. 

Also, interesting, the Dam’s side of the genetics aren’t published, so there is no way of finding the genetics of the Maternal Grand Sire (MGS). Bulls are made genetically by their Sire and MGS. More smoke and mirrors. 

Lastly, we as potential bull buyers are left with the Reference Sires as we try to determine the worth of the bulls in question. A person would have to travel the world over to find this many low quality, low grade reference sires, sons —  assembled under one tent. 

Here are the Reference Sires:

W/C UNITED 956Y; Carcass Merits in the Abyss Low API and TI
QUAKER HILLRAMPAGE 0A3; Carcass Merits in the Abyss Low API and TI for a PBAN
GAR-EGL PROTEGE; ok Carcass Merits, Lots of Negative fat, mediocre CE and MCE, red gene carrier and lower API and TI
V A R GENERATION 2100; More mediocre genetics – weak API and TI carcass merits in the abyss
K C F BENNETT ABSOLUTE; No MM pretty weak carcass merits, we used him a little this year, but better Sires out there
CCRCOWBOY CUT; I saw this bull and just laughed Double Legacy Inbred Garbage
A A R TEN X 7008 S A; excellent PBAN Bull –only 1 calf in the sale — sadly – at least someone knows a good bull when they see it.
PROTEGE PROFIT; unknown — I’m sure a real Prize.
THOMAS UP RIVER; never heard of this bull looked him up Carcass Merits in the Abyss LOW API and TI
CONNEALYCOUNSELOR; lots of negative fat found 43 head of progeny out there — not too impressive
TSN PROTEGE; never heard of this bull / more Legacy crap genetics and WLE Power Stroke junk; more low API and TI stuff
CONNEALY FINAL PRODUCT; never heard of this bull API and TI in the abyss — not worth my time
V A R RESERVE; never heard of this bull either — look at that MM wow — low API and TI negative fat —
EF COMPLEMENT;never heard of this bull — terrible carcass merits to make a low PBI – poor choice
EXAR UPSHOT; more third tier Angus — some Program risk on Genetic defects and more really weak API and TI stuff
SA V BRUISER;never heard of this bull more dismal carcass merits again for what you are trying to prove in PBI
IRONWOOD NEW ERA;never heard of this bull — wow fabulous numbers perhaps to fill a slot
HOOKS ACHILLES; 600U four times in his background; not bad numbers just an inbred mongrel
HLVW TIDE MASTER; Upgrade who is vastly inbred garbage on top of Grandmaster garbage, terrible choice in a bull
R5 MONUMENT;never heard of this bull — terrible API and TI another interesting choice in a herd sire low IMF negative fat
TJSHARPER IMAGE; dismal CE  BW MM Carcass merits low APi and TI for 2016
GLS FRONTIER; more mediocre crap genetics from 2003
Scalebuster11-383; unknown
TRAXS VELOCITY Y7;more Legacy crap genetics – carcass merits in the abyss
ELLINGSONLEGACY M229;more Legacy crap genetics, crap for growth, Stay, WW, YW — terrible choice and inbred 600U
JF RANCHER 222Z; terrible in so many ways – CE BW ADG MCE MM DOC CW Marb Shr API – sad
REMINGTON LOCK N LOAD54U; of CNS DO fame – more Legacy – terrible EPD’s and Indexes
HLVW CHANGING TIMES; just down right Pathetic with a capital P
GLS COMBINATIONR2;never heard of this bull below average API mostly due to terrible CE BW and Marb
CNS DREAM ON L186; more Legacy — all we really had in 2004 have some semen in my tank if ya know anyone wanting it
YON FUTURE FOCUS T21;may be a typo in your sale sheet T219 maybe — more mediocrity, negative fat
S A V 004 TRAVELER;all these 004’s were terrible
HC HUMMER 12M; the essence of Mediocrity from 2002
S6-1000; unknown

My advice to bull buyers is to purchase your Simangus™ bulls based on the quality parameters within American Simmental Association.

Producing SimAngus

We began producing Full Blood Simmental in 1998. After only a few years; we knew these high milking, large framed cattle required too many inputs and didn’t match either our available forage base or climatic conditions, which is key to survival and success in the cattle business.

We needed cattle that suited our particular situation.

For the next several years; we utilized the best genetics that our, now, Pure Bred Simmental (PBSM) cows had to offer by using their EPD’s to match-mate cows to AI Sires that would influence our cattle in a positive productive way.

By 2005, our PBSM cattle were better, but still didn’t fully match our available forage resources and climatic conditions of southeastern Georgia. We also noticed that many of the PBSM cattle originated from a very small genetic pool and that someday many would be closely related or inbred.

As in life, every business comes to that ultimate crossroad and decisions have to be made that may influence success for years to come. Thinking about which path to follow, we chose SimAngus™ cattle.

This decision really made the big difference in our success and in 2007 we had our first SimAngus calves born at the ranch. Another direction we chose that generated further successes, then and even today, was/is by utilizing Artificial Insemination (AI) on 100% of our cattle and by using the best PBAN AI Sires to produce Simmental-based SimAngus™ cattle.

Today, all of our cows exceed the ASA Hybrid Simmental (SimAngus) EPD averages across the board for every single trait of economic importance.

As we moved away from PBSM catttle we did, however,  maintain a few. We own the highest API/TI Red (Non-Legacy) Purebred, Simangus and Simbrah cows in the USA.

A Ranchers Perspective

I started ranching at 20, from scratch, and I’m the only rancher my age for miles and miles. Can you stand by and watch your friends get their new homes, cars, boats and RV’s while you struggle to make ends meet?

If you can — you may just have what it takes to begin a cattle business. Do something like I did — find a mentor that you trust and one that will tell you the truth — how it takes time — how everyone pays dues — how this isn’t really some romanticized existence, instead it’s hard work and this is why we are so few.

This is what it takes to be free.

I’m here to share my experiences with the world — what worked — what didn’t and why (maybe). And, yes, if I had to face floods, droughts, ice storms, destroyed hay, equipment failures, activists, lightning, doubters, my fears, death loss, fires and disappointments; I would definitely do it all over again………