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Better Performance Through Genetic Selection

- Breed Differences on Endophyte-Infected Tall Fescue

By Brittni Drennan

Tall fescue is the most commonly used grass in the U.S. used to graze and feed cattle. Widespread throughout a majority of the country, fescue grass provides multiple benefits for pasture performance due to its persistence, long growing season, and nutritional quality as well as drought, insect and disease resistance. However, producers have a love-hate relationship with this seemingly desirable plant. The same fungal endophyte that makes the grass so hardy also contains some alkaloids that studies have shown are detrimental to the performance of grazing livestock.

Common side effects of toxicosis include heat stress, suppressed appetite, poor growth or reduced calving rates, ultimately costing the beef industry approximately $500 million to $1 billion annually in losses due to decreased reproductive and growth rates, according to an abstract from Richard Browning, Ph.D., Tennessee State University.

Researchers have determined the endophyte can be alleviated using several forage management practices including replacing endophyte-infected tall fescue with low-endophyte strands, diluting endophyte-infected fescue with other grasses or legumes, ammoniating fescue hay, or increasing stocking rates to prevent plant maturation since the endophyte is highly concentrated in the seedhead. However, due to high costs, vast amount of acreage covered in endophyte-infected tall fescue, along with reluctance to eradicate long-standing pastures, forage management for eradication purposes does not seem likely or advantageous.

A more practical, effective solution for alleviating the negative effects caused by high-endophyte fescue is with animal management practices by genetic selection. Browning pointed out heat stress is a known symptom of fescue toxicosis, causing increased panting, respiration rates, and time spent in the shade, which means cattle spend less time grazing and gaining.

Recently, the University of Kentucky conducted a trial using 120 spring-born calves out of cows with varying degrees of Brahman-influenced genetics bred to Hereford bulls. Roy Burris, Ph.D., Extension Beef Specialist at UKY was the lead researcher on the study.

“There’s five million acres in Kentucky and most of it is high-endophyte fescue. When dealing with fescue endophyte, there’s a lot we don’t know and pastures vary,” Burris said. “What we found from the trial is an improvement in the adjusted weaning weights. We did see better performance on those calves with Brahman influence, and they gave us higher adjusted 205-day weaning weights.”

Burris reported the results from those calves having zero Brahman influence had an adjusted weight of 499.2 pounds, calves out of 3/16 Brahman influenced cows were 512.5 pounds, and calves out of the 3/8 percentage cows were 533.9 pounds. Burris said there was no significant difference between findings on the high-endophyte versus the low-endophyte fescue.

The better performance from Brahman-influenced calves can be attributed to their natural ability to tolerate heat better than Continental breeds. Burris said calves raised on fescue grass tend to be a little woolier and hairier, and Brahman-influenced cattle tend to be slicker hided, allowing them to more effectively dissipate excess body heat caused by fescue toxicosis.

“We sent the resulting calves to the feedlot, and there wasn’t much difference in the results between the different sets of calves out of the feedlot, and there wasn’t any difference in carcass data between the calves.” Burris said. “We did, however, make more money off the Brahman-influenced cattle because they were evaluated lower initially because of their Brahman-influenced characteristics.”

Fescue toxicosis has an impact on more than just performance to weaning in cow-calf operations. Browning also noted studies in which the average daily growth rates (ADG) in Bos indicus crossed steers were less affected by fescue toxicosis (Table 1).

 

BOS TUARUS BOS INDICUS CROSS
REFERENCE lbs/d % loss lbs/d % loss
Goetsch et al., 1988A -0.46 -38 -0.42 -22
Goetsch et al., 1988B -0.20 -16 -0.09 -6
McMurphy et al., 1990C -0.72 -39 -0.29 -14
McMurphy et al., 1990D -0.72 -39 -0.44 -26
Cole et al., 2001 -0.55 -86 -0.29 -21
*Table 1: A: Spring, B: Fall, C: Bos indicus Cross = Brahman X Angus, D: Bos indicus Cross = Simmental X (Brahman X Angus)

 

To briefly summarize, Goetsch et al. (1988) demonstrated the reduction in ADG of Brahman cross steers was comparable to the reduction of British cross steers in a 12-week period in the spring as well as fall. An exception was noted during the first half of the fall season when the ADG of Brahman crosses was statistically less affected by the endophyte. McMurphy et al. (1990) tested Angus, Brahman x Angus, and Simmental x (Brahman x Angus) steers and found the half-blood Brahman steers’ post-weaning ADG were less affected by high endophyte levels than the straight Angus or quarter-blood Brahman steers.

“Collectively, a consistent trend is apparent,” Browning said. “High endophyte levels in the tall fescue diets invariably reduced ADG of Brahman-cross steers to a lesser degree than when steers did not posses the Brahman influence. Brahman genetics reduced the adverse effects of endophyte-infected tall fescue on post-weaning ADG by 26 percent on average (range = 10 to 65 percent) across the studies.”

These studies also demonstrate another important factor for producers to recognize. It’s not about fighting fescue and completely eliminating toxicosis; it’s about doing what it takes to reduce loss and decrease the negative impacts caused by high-endophyte fescue.

Having worked with Beefmaster cattle and other Brahman-influenced cattle since 1974, Burris is very familiar with the benefits these kinds of cattle provide, aside from their ability to thrive in areas with high-endophyte fescue. Beefmasters are a stabilized composite breed developed by maintaining 50 percent Brahman influence, 25 percent Hereford and 25 percent Shorthorn. Currently, the UKY cowherd is fall calving, and Burris has found Brahman-influenced cattle perform just as well in the winter months as they do in the summer.

There is a misconception among producers in the beef cattle industry that Beefmaster cattle or cattle with Bos indicus genetics will not perform in colder climates, but that simply could not be farther from the truth. In the colder seasons and environments found in northern areas of the country, Bos indicus cattle thrive just as well in the winter months due to their hardiness and natural adaptability characteristics. Burris said Brahman-influenced females, in particular, are in high demand because of their performance and especially their mothering abilities.

“What we found most of the time in cross-breeding programs, some Brahman influence has proved to work very well in the south as well as the north,” Burris said. “What we see here is that a lot of people like, and there’s a lot of demand for, F1 heifers due to their longevity and their performance. Most people in this area aren’t used to looking at Brahman-type cattle, so they don’t necessarily love the phenotype, but they find they do perform well.”

Regardless of production stage or industry sector, Burris said producers would benefit from evaluating their own cattle and breeding those cattle to genetics that will compliment their herd.

“Breed to improve structure and soundness or breed to improve carcass or performance,” Burris said. “Find those weaknesses within your herd and work to eliminate those weaknesses.”

It comes down to using the tools available to select genetics that will compliment a producer’s herd, coincide with his production goals, and work well in his environment, not against it.

Burris also said disposition of Bos indicus cattle was a concern among cattlemen. Let’s be realistic. Docility was a problem in the past for producers raising Brahman-influenced cattle. Although, since Beefmaster producers in cooperation with Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) have recognized the issue, they have worked to effectively minimize the problem by selecting for improved disposition within their operations.

“Disposition seems to be more of a problem in some other Brahman-influenced breeds than in the Beefmaster breed,” Burris said. “I always look at docility and disposition and select for that. When I bring a bull in, I want to be sure I’m not bringing in problems, and I do the same thing with Angus cattle. If my herd has a problem, that’s what I’m going to try to take care of first.”

In regards to the perception that all Brahman-influenced cattle have problems with disposition, Burris said it would be a mistake for producers to affirm those negative perceptions and give critics something else to pick apart.

“In my experience, Brahman-type cattle tend to respond better and more quickly to the way they’re handled and the way they’re treated,” Burris said. “There are always some outliers, but they need to be culled and disposition needs to be looked at within all Bos indicus breeds.”

Aside from the herd based at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Burris personally keeps approximately 200 brood cows, and tries to maintain some Brahman-influenced cattle in the herd. He keeps a few purebred Angus and Brahman-influenced bulls and breeds his own replacement females to uphold a 3/16 Brahman-cross. Because of their hardiness and adaptability, longevity is an indirect advantage of Bos indicus cattle.

“Longevity, to me, is the biggest benefit of Brahman-influenced cattle—their ability to stay structurally sound, stay in the herd and continue producing,” Burris said.

Ultimately, implementing Beefmaster and/or Brahman-influenced genetics provides tremendous profit potential for cow-calf producers as well as stockers, introducing benefits from heterosis, more longevity and improved performance on high-endophyte fescue.

“Infusion of Brahman genetics seems to offer an alternative means of reducing the impact of fescue toxicosis on both cow-calf and stocker performance,” Browning said. “Use of Brahman genetics to overcome challenging environmental conditions is not a new concept. Somewhat overlooked, however, may be the potential of Brahman germplasm to enhancing cattle performance in another challenging production environment, the high endophyte-infected tall fescue pasture.”

For more information about Brahman-influenced genetics or to find a Beefmaster seedstock provider, visit www.beefmasters.org.

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Beefmaster Promotion Group International Beefmaster Gala Sale Report

Beefmaster Promotion Group International Beefmaster Gala Sale – Houston, TX. – March 5, 2016

Lots Type Gross Average
5 Bull $21,400.00 $4,280.00
3 Bred Heifer $13,250.00 $3,380.00
14 Open Heifer $53,750.00 $3,420.00
6 Semen $21,375.00 $1,087.50
28 Total Lots $109,775.00 $3,920.54

Bulls

  • Lot 10 – 401 RGB Handsome Henry – Illusions Impression x Collier 231/0 $6,500 Rafter G Bar Benito Garcia, TX
  • Lot 12 – 3194 MDH Captain Tuff – Cain 15Z x Allee 6282 $5,500 Karisch Cattle Co. Roberto Rodriguez, MX

Open Heifers

  • Lot 25A – 15/33 – EMS Headliner x 3G 3574 $6,600 Troy & Trevor Glaser CB Sureme Ranch LLC, TX
  • Lot 20 – 5216 – Vision x Miss Jackpot Joy $5,750 SM Beefmasters Bodie Wrobleski, TX
  • Lot 26 – 22/15 WR Paisly – Vision x Flash 14/3 $5,200 Blue Ribbon Brooke Charpiot, TX

Bred Heifers

  • Lot 15 – 14/111 – Red Ryder x Cain 5155 Bred to CF Adonis $5,500 Travis Glaser Lindsey Ranch, TX

Semen

  • Lot 5 – EMS Johnny Cash – Sexed Heifer Semen $325 per unit Ellis & Emmons Ranch CB Sureme Ranch LLC, TX. Gilmore, TX.
  • Lot 5 – EMS Johnny Cash Semen $385 per unit Ellis & Emmons Ranch Kacer Farm, KY

Volume Buyers: CB Supreme Ranch LLC, TX.; Benito Garcia, TX.; Bodie Wrobleski, TX.; RX2 Ranch, TX.

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Houston Magic XVI Sale Report

Houston Magic XVI – Houston, TX.  – March 4, 2016

Lots Type Gross Average
9 Bull $54,000.00 $6,000.00
27 Open Heifer $181,500.00 $6,722.22
13 Bred $86,250.00 $6,634.62
3 Pairs $34,000.00 $11,333.33
4 Semen $11,110.00 $2,777.50
4 Frozen Embryo $36,875.00 $9,218.75
60 Total Lots $403,735.00 $6,728.92

Bulls

  • Lot 5 – BF 1422 – CF Sugar Britches x Vanna 2010 $8,500 Bailey Farms JA Beefmasters, MX
  • Lot 43 – L2 71/14 – L2 Sugar Jack x Touch of Sugar $7,500 L2 Ranch Jose Gama, MX
  • Lot 62 – WH 4043 Cabela’s Tiger – Infinity x HF 751 $7,500 Windy Hills Maldonado, MX

Open Heifers

  • Lot 46 – L2 48/15 – L2 Bushwacker x L2 Knockout Anna $19,000 L 2 Ranch Fred & Mary Moran, LA.
  • Lot 49 – 23/15 Sugar in Dixie – CF N-Sync x Sugar Time $11,000 Priola Fred & Mary Moran, LA.
  • Lot 8 – BF 1428 – CF Sugar Britches x Tiger Time $10,000 Bailey Farms Roadhouse, TX
  • Lot 35A – 156/4 JK Ava Tigress – Painted Tiger x Ava $10,000 Kreger & Bedlam Kreger, OK

Bred Heifers

  • Lot 7 – BF 1405 – BF Kingpin x BF 1235 Bred to EMS Firehouse $13,000 Bailey Farms Collier Farms, TX.
  • Lot 45 – L2 25/15 – L2 Captain Jack x L2 Victorian Sugar Bred to L2 Triumph $11,500 L 2 Ranch Fred & Mary Moran, LA.
  • Lot 21 – 63 Love that Vanna – CF Dr. Love x Tiger Vanna Bred to Fusion $7,500 E & E Ranch JA Beefmasters, MX
  • Lot 65 – WH 4042 Red Hot – Unity x Red Prissy Bred to EMS Firehouse $7,500 Windy Hills Gomez, MX

Pairs

  • Lot 44 – L2 154/13 Lady – CF N-Sync x L2 Infinite Lady with Hiefer Calf by L2 Sugar Jack $15,500 L 2 Ranch Kacer Farms, KY
  • Lot 50 – Recipient cow with embryo Heifer calf by CF Sugar Britches x Sugar Time $14,500 Priola JA Beefmasters, MX

Frozen Embryos

  • Lot 51B – CF Sugar Britches x Sugar Time $1050 each Priola JA Beefmasters, MX
  • Lot 51A – CF N-Sync x Sugar Time $750 each Priola JA Beefmasters, MX

Volume Buyers: JA Beefmasters, MX.; Fred & Mary Moran, LA.; Gomez, MX.; Cissna Ranch, TX.; Windy Hills, MS.; Steven Anderson, TX.; Kacer Farm, KY.; Danny Arnold, TX.

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Southern Texas Extravaganza Sale Report

Southern Texas Extravaganza – Rio Grande City, TX. – January 23, 2016

Lots Type Gross Average
9 Bulls $37,950.00 $4,216.67
13 Bred Heifers $77,100.00 $5,930.77
23 Open Heifers $135,250.00 $5,880.43
6 Pairs $40,750.00 $6,791.67
3 Bred Females $17,750.00 $5,916.67
1 Pick of Calves $15,150.00 $15,150.00
1 Semen $550.00 $550.00
56 Total Lots $324,500.00 $5,794.64

Pairs

  • Lot 7 – 212 Sara’s Tequila – Painted Tiger x Tequila Sunrise with Heifer @ side by Sugar Bullet $12,500 Six Cantu’s Jim Colvin, TX.
  • Lot 55 – 240 Sugar – Sugar Bullet x Cains Ms Doc 8890 with Bull calf @ side by Ambush $8,000 Pena Farms Victor Laredo, TX
  • Lot 41 – 1104 Polled Red Fever – 4B Sugar Man x Bengal Magic with Heifer @ side by Polled Sugar Bear $6,000 Santa Ana Panama Ranch, TX

Bred Heifers

  • Lot 11 – 6603 Tiger Passion – Painted Tiger x Song of the South Exposed to Sugar Bullet $11,500 Six Cantu’s Luciano Martinez, MX
  • Lot 10 – 6602 Southern Passion – Painted Tiger x Song of the South Bred to Sugar Bullet $10,000 Six Cantu’s Jim Colvin, TX.
  • Lot 12 – 6612 Sparkling Wine – CF Sugar Britches x Desert Wine Bred to Sugar Bullet $9,000 Six Cantu’s Luciano Martinez, MX

Open Heifers

  • Lot 33 – 19 Full of Pep – Painted Tiger x Tequila Sunrise $10,000 Six Cantu’s San Gabriel Ranch, TX
  • Lot 30 – 6 Nina – L2 Captain Sugar x Secret Romance $8,750 Six Cantu’s Hector Guerra, MX
  • Lot 19 – 12 Bedazzeled – CF Sugar Britches x Sparta Girl $8,500 Six Cantu’s Luciano Martinez, MX

Bulls

  • Lot 53 – 469 PF Bullet – Sugar Bullet x Rio Queen $8,500 Pena Farms Chilo Guiterrez, TX
  • Lot 2 – 6608 Arnold – L2 Captain Sugar x Song of the South $7,000 Six Cantu’s Luciano Martinez, MX

Bred Females

  • Lot 43 – 531Z Polled Sexy Dream – CF Dream Catcher x Miss CJ 531 bred to Remington $6,000 Santa Ana Bounds Swinging B, TX
  • Lot 6 – 410 Red Sweetness – L2 Red Sugar x Oasis bred to Sugar Bullet $6,000 Six Cantu’s Steven Anderson, TX.

Volume Buyers: Luciano Martinez, MX.; Jim Colvin, TX.; Hector Guerra, MX.; Alex Villarreal, TX.; Pena Farms, TX.; Tony & Karen Psencik, TX.; Bounds Swinging B, TX.; Amando Beefmaster, TX.; San Gabriel Ranch, TX.; Panama Ranch, TX.

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Junior Beefmaster National Show and Convention to be held in Louisiana

SAN ANTONIO – The schedule has been set and young Beefmaster breeders are preparing for the 32nd annual Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association (JBBA) National Convention and Junior Show to be held in West Monroe, La. The show and convention will take place at the Ike Hamilton Expo Center from July 17 – 23.

Exhibitors will have the opportunity to compete with their cattle in the E6/Advancer Show, National Heifer Show, National Bull Show, Bred & Owned Heifer Show and Showmanship Contest. Dr. Randy Perry of Fresno State University will judge the National Heifer Show. Perry has judged most of the major livestock shows in the nation, has a vast wealth of experience in all beef cattle breeds, and has served in beef industry leadership roles at the national level.

Chris Mullinix of Manhattan, Kan., will serve as the judge for the Bred & Owned Heifer Show, E6/Advancer Show and the National Bull Show. Mullinix is the Kansas State University (KSU) livestock judging coach, one of the powerhouses in collegiate livestock judging. Under Mullinix’s leadership the KSU Livestock Judging Team has maintained their dominance as one of the best teams in the nation. Mullinix is a nationally recognized beef cattle judge, having sorted elite shows at almost every national livestock exposition.

The showmanship contest judges are Adam and Hannah McCall of Springfield, Mo. The McCalls bring a great perspective to the JBBA showmanship contest. Adam and Hannah, both Tennessee natives, were role models for junior exhibitors in the Angus and Charolais breeds. Adam is a past President of the American International Junior Charolais Association, where he won their showmanship and fitting contest several times in his show career. Hannah also won the coveted title of champion showman at the National Junior Angus Show. This dynamic, young couple will bring excellent cattle showing experience to West Monroe.

The JBBA National Convention not only offers JBBA members a great opportunity to exhibit their cattle, the junior breeders also participate in new activities and meet new people. A schedule filled with educational and fun activities has been tailored to entertain, educate and provide a great family atmosphere.

Many other contests are available to juniors throughout the week. Juniors can show off their artistic skills in several contests including both photography and PowerPoint contests, which do not require attendance by the junior breeder, and a coloring contest. The 2016 JBBA Convention will also include livestock judging and public speaking contests.

For more information about Beefmaster Breeders United and its junior program please contact the BBU office at 210-732-3132 or visit www.beefmasters.org. Stay connected to BBU through Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, view our videos on YouTube and receive our news updates through joining our mailing list.

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DNA: Where We’re Headed and Where We’ve Been

By Kelsey Crenshaw

Do you remember the day when you could flip open your handy-dandy flip phone to call someone and you knew exactly what you were doing because this was the only thing your phone could do? Now today you can hold a computer in the palm of your hand, better known as a Smartphone.

DNA is no exception to this fast paced race in today’s ever-changing technology. Genetic providers for the beef cattle industry are constantly coming up with new and improved products to offer their customers. Within the last few months I have witnessed the Beefmaster breed being thrown right in the middle of this huge, ever-changing world of genomics. This territory brings several questions with it. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cattle genomics.

  • What are STRs?

The proper name for STR is Short Tandem Repeat analysis. This is the old type of marker analysis that was used previously before the industry transitioned to the new SNP analysis in 2012. When a sample is tested with STR analysis there are 11-14 NUMBER markers that the lab looks at and can compare with another animal’s markers to determine parent verification. As the labs have now moved to SNP analysis, STR analysis is no longer used except on a case-by-case basis.

  • What are SNPs?

The proper name for SNP is Single-nucleotide Polymorphism (often referred to as snip). This is the new type of marker analysis that is currently used in today’s genetic market. Every sample submitted to either Zoetis or GeneSeek for a Genotype panel or Parentage Analysis is run on SNPs. Contrary to the STR analysis, when a sample is tested with SNPs there are 80-110 LETTER markers that the lab looks at and can compare with another animal’s markers to determine parent verification.

  • If one of my animals has STRs on file and another animal has SNPs on file, can they be compared for parent verification?

NO, when comparing STRs versus SNPs, each analysis produces a different marker count and STRs are number markers where SNPs are letter markers, so, these two samples cannot be compared. If you run into this scenario with animals you are DNA testing, there are still ways to compare these two animals. BBU would suggest that a new sample be submitted for the animal with STRs on file and have it run on SNPs, so that the two can be compared. If collecting a new sample is not an option, as a last resort the animal with SNPs can also be run on STRs so the two can be compared at an additional fee. Again, this is a last resort and will require approval from BBU staff. Please note, if the parents have DNA on file and a DNA sample is submitted for their progeny, parent verification will be run, no exceptions.

  • What is a High Density genotype?

More commonly known as the HD genotype, this panel can map out the genes of an animal by using a 50K or 150K SNP chip. And better yet, as we grow our population of HD genotypes, our genetic vendors will be able to develop a Beefmaster specific panel that can map out genes that pertain specifically to our breed of cattle. Currently, the only animals REQUIRED to be genotyped with the HD chip are any new AI sires or embryo donors that have not already been previously DNA typed as of January 1, 2016. Although, BBU is encouraging that all animals be genotyped with the HD chip.

  • What do I get when I have an animal HD genotyped?

The first and most important thing that your animal will receive when genotyped on the HD panel is Genomic-Enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs). GE-EPDs have increased accuracy over the general EPDs and ONLY animals that have been genotyped will receive these enhanced EPDs. BBU hopes to have GE-EPDs available in May 2016 after the next genetic run. Parentage Analysis is also included when having your animal genotyped, as long as the parents have DNA on file. There is no additional charge for parent verification when your animal is genotyped unless there is an issue with STR vs. SNP comparison, as discussed above. Only then would there be an additional charge to have that animal parent verified.

  • Do I get a report for my animals that have been genotyped?

Unlike when having an animal parent verified, there is no official report that you will receive when an animal is HD genotyped. Again, you will see the results of this test when the GE-EPDs are available. BBU will send you a confirmation report that simply states that your animals have successfully been genotyped and the information has been recorded with our geneticist.

These are just a few of the many questions that come up during the DNA process. If you ever have any questions regarding DNA testing please contact the BBU office. If you need DNA sample cards and submission paperwork in order to submit samples for DNA testing, please contact the BBU office.

Sometimes it is easy to sit back and wish for the more simple times of the past and long to hold that handy-dandy flip phone back in your hand. However, it is pretty cool to be able to access almost anything from just one touch of your Smartphone. As Beefmaster breeders, if we commit to DNA testing and genomics today we will ensure a successful future for our breed and enhance its importance to the cattle industry.

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Selection Indices for Beefmaster Breeders

By Matt Spangler, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Beef Genetics Extension Specialist University of Nebraska-Lincoln

An economic index is a collection of EPDs weighted by their economic value such that traits with greater impacts on production goals have a larger economic weight associated with them. The basic equation of an economic index is:

I = EPD1 x a1 + EPD2 x a2 + EPD3 x a3 ++ EPDn x an

Where: I is the index value; EPDn is the EPD for trait n; and an is the economic weight associated with trait n.  This basic form was first published in the early 1940s.

Note that EPDs are included in the selection index above.  However, not all traits for which we have EPDs directly impact the profitability of cow/calf operations.

Traits that directly impact a source of revenue or a cost of production are called Economically Relevant Traits (ERT). All traits that are not ERTs are indicator traits, or a trait that is genetically correlated to an ERT but not an ERT itself.

Classic examples of indicator traits include ultrasonic carcass measurements and birth weight. Producers do not receive premiums for IMF levels, rather premiums (and discounts) are applied to quality grades.  Assuming that carcass maturity values are the same, actual carcass marbling is the driver of quality grade.  Although IMF is genetically correlated to carcass marbling it is not the ERT.  Birth weight is another great example of an indicator trait.  Selection to decrease birth weight in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of dystocia is practiced by numerous commercial bull buyers.  However birth weight does not have a direct revenue source or cost associated with it.  The trait that does have a cost associated with it is calving ease (or difficulty).

How are the economic weights derived?  Using historical averages of input costs and the value of sale weight and carcass premiums (and discounts) we use a simulated cowherd to ask the question “if all else is held constant, and we change one of the traits by one unit, how does this change our profitability”?  These values become the foundation for the weightings of the EPDs in the index. The weightings are then modified based on the genetic relationship between the ERT and the indicator trait for which we have an EPD, as well as the genetic relationship between the trait and all other traits in the index (to avoid “double counting”).

Below are some examples of proposed indices for the BBU.

Terminal Index

This index includes EPDs for yearling weight and ultrasound and traits and is designed to select bulls to be used only on mature cows. Producers wishing to enhance growth and simultaneously select for quality and yield grade should use this index. It is a terminal index and caution should be used if replacement females are retained to avoid increasing mature weights of females.

Example:

Bull A +60.0

Bull B +55.0

We would expect that the calves from Bull A would be worth $5.00/hd. more than those from Bull B if retained through a feedlot phase.

Maternal Index

This index assumes that the sire will be used on both cows and heifers and that heifers will be retained as replacements while all other offspring (cull heifers and steers) will be sold at weaning.

Example:

Bull A  +130

Bull B   +120

We would expect that the calves from Bull A would be worth $10/hd. more than those from Bull B.  Over a span of 4 years Bull A could generate $1,200 more revenue than Bull B if mated to 30 females/yr. ($10/hd x 30/hd x 4 yrs.).

Choosing an Index to Use

When making selection decisions based on economic indices, it’s important to consider your particular breeding objective and the traits that will achieve desired production goals. For instance, if your production goals included retaining replacements and selling cull heifers and steer progeny at weaning, then an index that assumes all offspring are retained through the feedlot and no replacements are retained is inappropriate for your operation. It is also important to know the breed average values for particular indexes and to use percentile ranks to determine how far above or below average a particular animal is compared to the rest of a breed.

 

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A Moment with Matt: Never Too Old to Learn

By Matt Woolfolk

Two weeks ago, I accompanied three of our Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association (JBBA) Board members to Kansas City for the Youth Beef Industry Congress (YBIC), a two-day event for young leaders across the entire beef cattle industry. Participants were able to tour industry-leading companies, participate in professional and leadership development seminars and network with other young people with similar interests and passion for beef cattle. The JBBA representatives Wacey Horton, Coby Pritchett and Raleigh Scherer were a fine representation of our organization and carried themselves in a manner that would make any Beefmaster breeder proud. As we ate breakfast in the airport before returning home, I asked the guys what they had learned from their weekend. Each of them told me several solid answers, including some things they hope to bring home and implement into making JBBA even stronger. What they may not have realized is that they could have asked me the same “What did you learn?” question and gotten a long list of answers. I’m going to share a few of my takeaway lessons from my first endeavor as a chaperone of other people’s children.

  1. Traveling with teenagers is entertaining. Imagine how shocked I was when I came down to the hotel lobby ahead of schedule on the morning we were flying to Kansas City, only to find all three of my travel crew sitting there ready to travel. I was really impressed, until Coby admitted they were early because they thought we were leaving at 7:15, not 7:45. The boys surprised me once again when I find out on the way to the airport that two of the three had never flown before! The flight delay and bumpy landing had them a little anxious coming into Kansas City, but they survived. However, thanks to that flight delay, we had to skip lunch in order to get to the hotel on time. Needless to say, the boys did a great job of guilt tripping their chaperone about missing a meal. Lesson learned: ALWAYS find a way to feed teenage boys.
  2. Adults enjoy can enjoy youth events, too. While all the junior board members were learning how to prepare a cover letter or how to make a sales call, their advisers and chaperones were in the conference center lobby, tending to business on our phones and emails, but also getting to know each other and gathering ideas from each other. I met some really great people from other associations and we had a good time, whether it was watching buzzer beating NCAA basketball on an iPhone or attempting to show the kids how to be good bowlers. It wasn’t just a networking event for the junior board members.
  3. It’s all about balance. The kids got to hear a lunchtime address from Jack Ward, CEO of the American Hereford Association. During his talk, Mr. Ward shared what he considered the most important piece of advice he ever received.  He told the kids, “It’s important to find the balance between work, family, and faith”. Whether the kids caught it or not, this little piece of advice certainly caught the attention of the adults in the back of the room. Lots of us, myself included, don’t always keep this balance in line. It was a nice, gentle reminder to keep priorities in line and remember the important things.

Our trip to YBIC was a huge success. All four of us enjoyed ourselves, stayed out of trouble and returned home safely. Those are the three goals of any trip for a chaperone! I’m already looking forward to taking an even larger delegation to the next YBIC in 2018.  I’ll be taking volunteers for additional chaperones!

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Beefmaster Value Added Feeder Cattle

Profitability comes in different packages. Beefmaster has long been noted for their maternal excellence. On the cow side, Beefmaster females set the industry standard for fertility, longevity, functionality and efficiency. What many ranchers don’t realize is that Beefmasters also excel in the feedyard and on the rail.

In the past 15 years there has been a strong tendency for the U.S., beef industry to focus strictly on one trait, and that is marbling. Admittedly, we had a lot of carcass improvements to make in order to meet the consumer’s demand for high quality beef. Thank goodness the entire beef industry has been working to improve carcass quality over the past several years. Our reward is the re-emergence of beef as the consumer’s first choice in protein.

As the beef industry has focused on marbling, other traits that impact profitability have not had the same attention and selection pressure applied to them at the same extent as carcass traits. Beefmasters are rapidly gaining attention from cattle feeders and buyers for their ability to hit these often overlooked, but very valuable production targets.

Several Beefmaster breeders have quietly began to retain ownership on their straight and crossbred Beefmaster steers to discover exactly how Beefmasters perform in the yard and in the plant. The data collected over the years is eye opening.

James and Mary Ann Skelton began feeding their Beefmaster sired/influenced steers with Irsik and Doll Feedyard of Garden City, Kansas in 2010. Initially, the Skelton’s tried retaining ownership to avoid discounts at the sale barn. Once they began, they quickly discovered the advantages that Beefmasters bring to the table.

“The first thing we noticed is that our Beefmaster sired steers are very healthy. While we do have a good vaccination program at the farm and we background our calves, we have very little sickness on our steers while they are in the yard,” Skelton said.

No one, especially Skelton, is surprised by this. The strength of an animal’s immune system is impacted by heterosis. The first step to profitability in the feedyard is keeping them alive and healthy so they can perform. Beefmasters excel in this area.

Beefmasters have an immune system advantage because of their genetic makeup which is a combination of Hereford, Shorthorn and Bos indicus (Brahman influence). Adding clout over and above crossbreeding using only Bos taurus (British and Continental breeds), Bos indicus cattle have an even greater hybrid vigor effect because of the principle of genetic diversity. The more unrelated parents are, the greater the heterosis or crossbreeding effect. Beefmasters are unique in that they carry more retained heterosis than any of the other American breeds. Beefmaster sires used on Angus cows yield a “just right” blend of Bos indicus influence.

“One of the first things we noticed about our Beefmaster steers was their performance and feed efficiency,” Skelton said. “Our first pen of steers gained a 3.7 and converted on a dry matter basis at 5.15. From there we had a couple of pens of steers gain and convert pretty close to that, but our best pen gained a 4.0 and converted at 4.81.”

To date the Skelton steers are averaging 3.6 average daily gain rate (ADG) with a 5.11 dry matter conversion rate. Anyone who has ever fed cattle can tell you that those kind of performance and conversion figures are truly special.

Spotlighting that profitability can come from areas other than carcass quality and the last set of Skelton steers closed out in December 2015 with remarkable figures. Skelton compared the November 2015 national average to his steers and arrived at the following conclusion.

“Our steers gained 3.8 and the national average was 2.8. Our steers converted on a dry matter basis at 5.5 versus the national average of 6.1. Finally the cost of gain on our Beefmasters was 65 cents versus 92 cents,” Skelton said.
Good solid performance coupled with true efficiency always positions a set of steers for profit.

The manager of Irsik and Doll Feedyard in Garden City, Kansas, Mark Sebranek, has fed some of the very best cattle of almost every breed in a wide variety of progeny tests, including Beefmasters. Sebranek’s retained ownership customers are demanding. Over the years Irsik and Doll Feedyard has developed a devoted clientele that appreciates his knowledge of cattle feeding and grid marketing. Sebranek has had several positive experiences with feeding Beefmaster influenced cattle.

“Live performance on the Beefmaster steers is good. They consistently gain in the high threes to low fours on an ADG basis, right where they need to be. Conversions on the Beefmasters are really good with some of the better pens converting in the high 4 lbs., of feed to a pound of gain, with low fives being pretty common. These ADGs, conversions and really good cattle health make feeding Beefmasters easy,” said Sebranek.

Tom Jones of Hi Plains Feeders in Montezuma, Kansas has had similar experiences with Beefmaster steers that come through their yard. According to Jones, Beefmaster steers typically convert on a feed to gain basis in the top 30%, with conversions in the upper 5 lb., range not being uncommon.

“Beefmasters are very healthy, as a matter of fact we pencil in a three-quarter percentage death loss (very low) when running breakevens. They gain well, convert well and we are not afraid to sell them on a grid,” said Jones.

In regards to grid marketing steers, Beefmaster breeders are serious about improving carcass quality. From 1998 to 2003, Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) in cooperation with Texas A&M University conducted an extensive progeny test utilizing 15 Beefmaster sires on commercial Angus cows from the Texas A&M Research Station in McGregor, Texas. At the time, no one probably realized how relevant the Beefmaster x Angus crossbred mating would be 14 years later. To no one’s surprise, the
cattle produced carcass data by today’s standards.

Will Beefmaster sired steers hang up acceptable carcasses? Absolutely. Beefmaster sired calves out of the commercial Angus cows from the McGregor, Texas station posted impressive numbers. Seventy-two percent of the cattle produced carcasses that were USDA Prime or USDA Choice. Forty-nine percent of the carcasses earned an impressive Yield Grade 1 or 2. Given this kind of knowledge, you can confidently sell your Beefmaster influenced steers on the right grid. Given how much Beefmaster and Angus carcasses have improved since the progeny test referenced above, one could reasonably assume that the carcass traits of today’s Beefmaster x Angus crossbreds will be even better in the plant.

While everyone is emphasizing quality and yield grades as the focal point for carcass traits, Beefmasters offer a counterbalance trait that can help equalize the quality grade difference. Hot yields or dressing percentages on Beefmaster sired cattle are impressive, handily exceeding plant averages. James and Mary Ann Skelton have been seeing impressive hot yields on their steers averaging over 65% with one harvest group coming in at 65.74%.

Mark Sebranek points out that “even though we are selling these cattle on a grid, at the end of the day we are still selling pounds. Pounds of carcass that is. You can have cattle that light up a grid, but if they are below plant average on dressing percentage, you will be discounted. That’s what I like about the Beefmasters I have fed. They have enough quality grade to keep them marketable and their hot yields mean more carcass weight to sell. It’s an important thing to remember.”

Today’s cattleman has a lot to consider. Given the rapid improvements in carcass quality the industry has seen over the past decade, it could be argued that as an industry we have injected a tremendous amount of marbling into America’s cow herd, and that is a good thing. If we know the cattle will work in the plant, is it not time to refocus our efforts on building functional, fertile and efficient cow herds?

Now, more than at any time in our history, the American commercial cow herd will receive the biggest returns at almost every sector by simply crossbreeding and letting heterosis add value to the industry. The selling points of crossbreeding are that more calves are born, healthier calves are born, more pounds of pay weight are produced, and cows have longer, more productive lives. Beefmasters are uniquely qualified to add that all important heterosis punch. The impressive performance, conversion, health and economic traits seen by James and Mary Ann Skelton can be achieved by almost any progressive cattleman.

True, heterosis influences all of the profitability traits but that is the point Beefmaster breeders are trying to make. Heterosis works and Beefmasters used on high percentage Angus cows yield the crucial balance of maximum production, acceptable carcass and just enough “ear” influence. Beefmaster bulls used on Angus cows result in a calf crop that is 75% British and 25% Bos indicus. This percentage of Brahman influence is optimum for performance and the carcass still has enough punch to add significant value to your replacement females. If you have kept back continental heifers as replacements, you will be amazed at how productive Beefmaster sired females out of these cows will be.

Remember, profitability comes in different packages. Beefmaster genetics will help you take advantage of the inherent efficiencies many ranchers have been overlooking. Beefmasters produce truly superior females with healthier, higher performing and higher yielding steers that will definitely keep you profitable.

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A Moment with Matt: Changing Seasons

By Matt Woolfolk

If you ask a field rep in the beef cattle business what the four seasons are, you’re probably not going to get the traditional answer of spring, summer, fall and winter. Instead, the four seasons for a field man are stock show season, spring sale season, junior nationals season and fall sale season. Daylight savings time signals the end of stock shows and the start of crisscrossing the region for all the upcoming sales. I hope my car is ready for all the miles on the road and trips through the fast food drive-thru lanes!

Stock show season was once again a great success for the Beefmaster breed. In Texas, there were strong showings in Fort Worth, San Angelo, San Antonio, Houston and I am sure there will be more of the same in Austin next week. Outside the Lone Star State, major shows in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma showed the strength of our Beefmaster junior program. Entry numbers were strong across the board this year and the quality ran deep. I had multiple judges, both in the Beefmaster ring and those judging another breed across the fence, tell me how impressed they were with the quality of cattle these young people were exhibiting. What’s more impressive is the quality of young people we have involved with the Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association (JBBA). In Houston, 11 JBBA board members took turns working the ring for the five hour junior show. They walked a lot of miles keeping the show ring running smoothly. When the show was over, one of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo volunteers gathered them up and said, “You guys are the best group of young kids I get to work with all week.” I hope you all are as proud of our JBBA leaders as I am!

This weekend starts the rush of the spring sale season with the Texoma Bull and Female Sale. After the sale this weekend staff will be headed in every direction traveling from Tunica and Shreveport, to Springfield and Locust Grove, Cullman to Crockett, and many other places in between! There’s no slowing down this time of year and we will be hard at work to help you, the membership, improve your operation in any way we can. Whether it’s through helping with your record keeping and data entry through Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) Pro Services, helping you find your next female at auction or anything else you might need. Remember that BBU is here to help you!

I look forward to seeing you all at an upcoming sale near you!

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