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Performance Article Series: Breeding with Purpose

 

By Lance Bauer, Director of Breed Improvement & Western Field Representative

It’s the front end of 2019 and by now most people have either stuck with their New Year’s Resolution or it was abandoned by the second week in January. I didn’t make a resolution this year, instead I was encouraged to come up with a word for the year. I decided that the word I would use is “purpose”. Purpose is a word that makes you stop and think about why you are doing what you are doing. Whenever I do something, I ask myself why and find the reason for that activity, granted some activities have the sole purpose of just allowing me to relax. I think that purpose is something you need to have when breeding cattle, from a broad sense, all the way down to making breeding decisions. I feel that my purpose for this breed is to promote the breed, as well as work with producers to improve their cattle, and thus the breed as a whole. So, what is your purpose?

Overall the purpose of the seedstock industry is for the elite animals to return to the seedstock industry and the majority of bulls to enter the commercial industry and offer the commercial cattleman a product that will push them forward. With that I believe that our purpose as a breed should be to grow our commercial market. Right now we have a very small share that is growing slowly, but I believe that by breeding with a purpose we can grow this share much faster. Another purpose you may have in your operation is breeding for replacement females, both registered and commercial. Again, the purpose of this type of operation should be to offer the highest quality product to the customer. The Beefmaster breed is known for its maternal characteristics and when making decisions this should be a key factor as to why a certain decision is made. The purpose of the seedstock industry is to advance itself, as well as advance the commercial industry.

With this in mind, I think that someone can now see the purpose in keeping records, using EPDs and studying structure and composition of an animal. These are tools that I have discussed in previous articles and I hope that they can be applied with purpose. Keeping records is extremely important because “we can’t improve what we don’t measure”. Records allow a producer to have a benchmark of where their herd is for any trait that they measure. These records help a producer focus on improving different areas of production that are important to them. If a producer wants cattle that get bred and calve on time, it is important to have accurate breeding and calving records. Weight traits are also valuable to the producer and should be recorded, so that there is a benchmark. One of the greatest strengths of the Beefmaster breed is its maternal ability and I believe that we should keep more reproductive records to prove this to the cattle industry.

Another purpose of keeping records is to allow for the calculation of EPDs. EPDs are a tool that allows producers to compared genetics across the breed that are raised in different environments. The purpose of using EPDs is to improve certain economically valuable traits in an animal’s offspring. It is very important that when using EPDs a producer does not select on one single trait. If single trait selection is used, many times there will be adverse effects on other traits. Use EPDs wisely and use them for what they were calculated for. EPDs are a valuable tool for the seedstock producer, as well as the commercial producer. Large commercial operations have EPD criteria on the bulls they purchase so that those bulls fulfill their purpose in their operation. When buying Beefmaster bulls, many commercial producers are looking at EPDs that point towards a bull that will produce high quality replacement females.

One more thing to look at is the functionality of an animal. Is the animal structurally correct? Does it have enough muscle? The purpose of these animals is for breeding, so they must be structurally correct to do that. Bulls need to look like bulls, while heifers and cows need to look feminine. If a producer sees a structural flaw or lack of muscle in an animal, they can purposely breed to correct that flaw. It is important not to forget structure when breeding animals with a purpose, since the purpose of the animal relies on structure. Beefmaster breeders have been good at selecting for animals that are sound and have good conformation. This means that these cattle can and will work in a variety of climates, from the swamps to the high deserts.

This year I challenge you to breed cattle with a purpose, ask yourself why you are breeding cattle. Is it to produce the best and most elite bulls and females? Is it to produce commercial bulls? Is your purpose of cattle breeding to make the best E6 females for the commercial producer? Remember that the purpose of the seedstock industry is to produce genetics that advance both the seedstock industry, as well as the commercial industry. Also remember that the different selection tools have a purpose and it is important to use all of them for the purpose they were intended. You wouldn’t build a house with just a saw, you need more than one tool. Everything has a purpose and ties into the big picture, so make sure that you don’t overlook something you think might be insignificant.

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