A Discussion About EPDs

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Since the other thread has been all over the map in regard to genetics, BW, EPDs, etc., I wanted to start a NEW thread specifically concerning EPDs and some thoughts from others that I've found interesting.

The first two posts are from a member here, Tom Underwood, and come from his website:

http://underwoodfarms.com/EPDs.html

Why We're Paying Less Attention to EPD's

Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s) are the numbers calculated by breed associations based upon data received from registered breeders. The purpose of the numbers is to compare the performance of cattle across a breed.

Original EPD measurements in the Hereford breed were for birth weight (BW), weaning weight (WW), Yearling Weight (YW), Maternal Milk (MM), and Scrotal Circumference (SC). It appears that EPD’s became a factor affecting genetic selection in the 1970’s. The original Hereford EPD’s have 1977 as the base year.

More recently, EPD’s have been created for Rib Eye Area (REA), Intramuscular Fat (IMF), and Back Fat (BF).

Presently, most Hereford breeders focus on growth characteristics such as weaning weight, yearling weight, and maternal milk.

Many Hereford breeders have embraced EPD’s as performance data, and they manage their herds to maximize total performance among EPD’s. There is no Hereford EPD for mature size or for weaning weight relative to mature size. Because EPD’s do not take into account animal size, the top total performing sires and dams tend to be larger. I have found that there is a tremendous positive correlation between parental mature size and yearling weights (once accurately calculated).

I have purchased more than 100 registered Hereford cows from more than 20 separate breeders in the past six years. I have turned the cows out on my fescue/orchardgrass/clover fields in Central Virginia, and managed them as lightly as possible.

The variance in performance is astounding, and it has practically little correlation to EPD’s. Specifically, the M&G numbers (a calculated EPD that equals the Maternal Milk EPD plus ½ of the Weaning Weight EPD) for my herd range from 21 to 53. The M&G number is supposed to calculate the expected variance in calf weaning weights, all other factors (sire, environment, dam age, etc) being equal. My best cow has a M&G number of 28. This cow is only a three year old, so there is not a lot of data for her yet. My best proven cow has a M&G score of 36. This cow, DTF Kaleigh 15G 917, is a 1999 cow that has had the best performing spring calf in my field by more than 20 pounds on average for the last four years. Further, this cow weighs about 1350 pounds, 200-400 pounds less than some of the cows that she competes against.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is VPI Miss Promise K016, a heifer that I bought from Virginia Tech at a sale in 2001. I had to calves by this cow, one to VPI Limited Edition J921, and one to KCF Bennett 774 L153. Both of the calves were by far the worst performing among their contemporaries. Further, once removed from the dam, they still did not grow well. Additionally, the dam’s hooves grew too long and were problematic, and she did very poorly when the only forage available was low-quality stock-piled fescue. When I culled her, she weighed 1550 pounds (she was not yet fully mature). Her current M&G EPD is 33, better than my best cow, and practically the same as my best proven cow.

Over time, EPD’s do move to reflect the performance of an animal, but the numbers move too slowly and in an erratic fashion. Because of the lack of accuracy of EPD’s and because of their stagnation, it is quite easy to manipulate EPD’s. For example, I’ve had the thought of taking my best cows, and breeding them to a very growthy bull with low EPD’s. At the same time, I will take some of my worst cows with very high M&G EPD’s and breed them to a top M&G bull like KCF Bennett 3008 M326. I am very confident that my good cows bred to the low numbers bull would dramatically outperform my high EPD bad cows bred to M326. Given relative accuracies, I believe my high EPD cows would see their numbers drop dramatically, whereas my good performing cows would only see a minor increase in EPD’s.

Within a stable herd, growth EPD’s really do denote relative growth among bloodlines over a period of 5-10 years. Of the cows that I bought in 2000, the cow that produced the highest growth calf, ARW DR X4 LASS 334, now has the highest M&G of the group, 45.The worst of the group, ARW ANTO VIC 232, has a M&G of 31. The top performing cow, however, had a mature weight of approximately 1800 pounds.

By chasing growth EPD’s and not focusing on efficiency, Hereford breeders are creating large cattle. My experience is that dams reach mature weight at approximately five years. I have sold mature Hereford cattle bought from well-known, reputable Hereford breeders, that weighed in excess of 1800 pounds. I sold one cow that exceeded 2000 pounds. I am confident that Hereford cows exist that can consistently wean calves at more than 600 pounds, up from about 450 pounds 30 years ago. I believe the current cows, however, exceed 1500 pounds at maturity whereas than cows 30 years ago likely were at least 300 pounds lighter. From an efficiency standpoint, a 450 pound calf from a 1200 pound dam equals a 600 pound calf from a 1500 pound dam.
 
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Another page from Tom Underwood:

http://underwoodfarms.com/EPDsSolutions.html

The Problems with EPD’s and the Solutions to EPD’s

In the cattle breeding business, most breed associations calculate Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s). Currently, EPD’s are calculated primarily for measurable characteristics related to size and carcass characteristics. EPD’s are calculated for traits such as Birth Weight (BW), Weaning Weight (WW), Intramuscular Fat (IMF), etc…

There are three major problems with EPD’s. If corrected these three problems are corrected, perhaps EPD’s could be beneficial for breeds rather than detrimental.

1.EPD’s assume mean regression. In other words, in the absence of sufficient data, it is assumed that an animal will perform like the breed average. When a small amount of data indicates superior performance, the “mean regression” coefficient means that an individual’s EPD’s will be closer to the breed average. By far the most informative discussion of EPD’s that I have read is located in an old newsgroup discussion on the Advantage Cattle message board. You can find the discussion at http://www.advantagecattle.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=301 .

2. “Accuracy” is double-counted in the presentation and application of EPD’s. The argument for including mean regression in EPD’s is to account for a lack of accuracy. As explained by Dr. Richard Willham, one of the creators of EPD’s,

“EPDs are predictions of FUTURE progeny compared to the average animals in the breed. EPDs are regressed toward the average for heritability and NUMBERS of records by themselves and related animals. Thus, the EPDs of animals can be fairly compared even though the amount of information for each is different. So, study the EPDs as they are and select those with the desired values. This means if a young bull with a low accuracy beats an older bull with a higher accuracy, select the bull on EPDs. Do not try to consider the accuracy because this has already been accounted for in the EPDs. As statisticians, we have included accuracy, but really did not need to do so. As I can see, it has bothered some of you breeders.”

Dr. Willham is well aware that breeds publish accuracy figures for EPD’s that are already formulated to adjusted for accuracy. The method by which EPD’s adjust for accuracy is Problem #1, mean reversion. EPD’s were created by statisticians, and statisticians approached EPD’s with the cautious approach as assuming mean reversion until statistically significant variances appeared. Breeders have now spent enough time studied EPD’s and inputs to be able to “honestly” create statistically significant variances. A prime example is a breeder having a contemporary group of 30 cows, five of which he knows are outstanding, five of which should be culled, and twenty of which he has some opinion about based upon lineage, potential outcross heterosis, etc, but does not differentiate as good or bad in his own mind. The simple exercise is to take the five bad cows and ten mediocre cows with the highest EPD’s and breed them to the top performing AI bull in the country. At the same time, breed your own most promising bull to the five best cows and the five mediocre cows with the worst EPDs. Have four other breeders follow the same program. The contemporary group legitimately and honestly will consist of 30 calves among two bulls in a total of five herds. If the breeders are worth their salt, even a considerably under-performing bull will become “proven” as an outlier versus the breeds’ top proven bull over a couple of years.

Those in favor of the current program have to argue that either breeders are not smart enough to figure this out, that breeders lack the organization and resources to carry out such a scheme, or that the breeders are incapable of identify their five best cows and five worst cows from a group of 30.

3.EPDs do not adequately account for inbreeding coefficients. In fact, I do not believe that Hereford EPD’s are adjusted at all for homozygoity. It is well-known among cattle breeders that there is such a thing at “inbreeding depression.” The corollary, heterosis (“hybrid vigor”), is understood by almost all breeders. “Inbreeding depression” is merely a method of explaining that animals with little variance in genetics exhibit less heterosis.

4.EPD’s do not account for Disposition, Vigor, Conformation, Doablity, and Frame Score.

The Solution

Problems 1 & 2 – Mean Regression and Accuracy

I propose to cure the problem of legitimate data manipulation and double-counting accuracy by augmenting the assumption of mean reversion. The style of data manipulation as described above exists because breeders possess more knowledge and data than is asked for by breed associations. Breeders are aware of the reasons that outliers exist in contemporary groups and whether the outlying performance is likely to recur. Keep in mind, I am not talking about lying, and I am not referring to breeders inaccurately reporting contemporary groups by counting sick calves among well ones, etc. I am talking about a breeder recognizing that they have enough inputs after only 3-4 calves know that a particular cow will ratio well with a particular bull line, especially compared to her EPD’s. Other cows will ration poorly, especially compared to their EPD’s. I am a relatively novice (perhaps bordering on intermediate breeder), and I have this knowledge among cows in my herd.

The augmentation that I suggest is to let breeders set EPD’s for 10% of the cattle in their herd each year. The accuracy assigned to the “new” EPD would be (0.25 + 0.25*(previous reported accuracy)). The maximum or minimum value that could be assigned would be the top or bottom 1% for any given trait.

In actuality, the breed would report final EPD’s twice a year as it does now. Breeders would then submit their changes. The changes would be treated as if exactly enough data had been submit through new progeny to create the newly assigned accuracies. Then, the EPD program would be rerun, and all other non-adjusted animals data would change according to the new data, and “Final Adjsuted EPD’s” would be reported.

I can hear the comments already, “Heresy! Have breeders openly encouraged to manipulate their own EPD data! Wouldn’t that destroy the entire purpose of EPD’s by biasing them?” My answer is to reread my description of the problem before. The problem is that EPD’s are already biased and inaccurate, and any breeder that cares to do so can manipulate EPD’s to his advantage within the existing system and within the confines of honest and accurate reporting. Breeders who wish to lie are already free to do so in the data that they report. Allowing an individual breeder to adjust EPD’s up and down and then re-running the calculations with the accuracies on the adjusted numbers being between 0.25 and 0.5 would likely improve the data integrity, EPD accuracy, and ultimately the overall quality of the breed. The reason that breed quality would improve is that a breeder could adjust a low-EPD, high performing cow to the EPD’s he believe are accurate and retain her in the herd. Over time, her progeny would cause EPD’s to fluctuate according to performance.

In addition to the rule of only 10% of the herd having EPD changes in any one year, there would likely need to be a couple of other simple ground rules. First would be that EPD’s could only be changed on wholly-owned animals that had reported at least two progeny over two breeding seasons with weaning weights under the current owner. Second would be that one owner could only adjust the EPD’s of a given bovine twice in that bovine’s life, and all changes would have to be made to living bovines expected to produce additional progeny. In reality, the two rules would mean that most EPD adjustments would be made to active dams, although a few older but lesser proven bulls would likely also be candidates for adjustment.

Problem 3 - Heterosis

Two adjustments would be necessary to account for heterosis, an adjustment to accuracies and an adjustment to the actual numerical values. First, accuracies of EPD’s would need to be adjusted for prepotency. An overly simplistic numerical would to do this would be to weight all data inputs by a bovine’s inbreeding coefficient, preferably using at least a 12 generation pedigree to calculate the inbreeding coefficient. As for the adjustment to numerical values, the Line 1’s inside Miles City and once used as outcrosses probably provide data to quantify the impact of heterosis (as defined by the inbreeding coefficient) on BW, WW, YW, and all other objectively measured traits. A “Heterosis Discount”, once quantified, needs to be universally applied to EPDs.

Problem 4 – Important Cattle Traits Not Receiving Enough Attention

Off hand, I can think of Five important criteria that I select for that are not currently accounted for in EPD’s: Disposition, Vigor, Conformation, Doability, and Frame Score. Good business practice generally involves establishing a plan, establishing criteria, setting objectives, measuring criteria relative to objectives, and persistent pursuit of objectives.

I believe that many breeders have chose to maximize existing EPD’s because they are the only objective benchmarks on which they are publicly compared outside of show winnings. Breeders are advised to select for Disposition, Vigor, Conformation, Doability, and Frame Score in addition to existing EPD’s. Most breeders have the concepts in mind when selecting, but the pull of a “curve-bending” EPD outweighs a slight conformation, vigor, or doability fault in some cases. Prior changes to measured EPD’s and accuracies would reduce mongrelization of the breed and create rewards for prepotency. Five new EPD’s, however, would help in returning the focus of breeders to good, practical cattle.

EPD’s calculations for each of the new categories would be simple. Breeders would assign a 0-5 score for each of the 5 new EPD’s on all calves at weaning and to dams and sires at the end of each breeding season when new calves are reported to the AHA. Actual EPD’s would be on a different scale, perhaps 0-100, and would be based upon historic reported data, data of relatives, inbreeding coefficient, and objective correlated factors. For example, consistently producing 17-year old dams would receive high scores for conformation and doability. Consistently and longevity would have significantly influence over scores.

Impact of the New EPD Scheme

Assuming that breeders agreed with the EPD changes and utilized them to at least the degree current EPD’s are utilized, four behavioral changes should be observed:

•Breeders would pay more attention to their cattle in the field rather than EPD’s because breeders would have a direct role in setting EPD’s based upon their own observations that would be understandable.

•Breeders would observe and attempt to quantify on a relative basis the important attributes of Disposition, Vigor, Conformation, Doability, and Frame Score.

•More input from men in the field regarding EPD’s of measurable traits such as BW, WW and YW should lead to greater accuracy of EPD’s and more buy-in from breeders. A virtuous cycle and increased confidence in the numbers should emerge.

•Adjustments for in-breed heterosis and prepotency’s impact on accuracy would reduce the genetic variability of the aggregate Hereford herd over time and would like stimulate the creation of line-breeding programs, some of which would contribute to the progress of the breed and others which would not contribute genetically but would contribute to the knowledge of Hereford breeders.

With the aforementioned modifications, I believe that wise commercial cattlemen would be able to more effectively utilize Hereford in their herds. Since EPD’s would be tracking the attributes that commercial cattle care about, ultimately Herefords would regain market share for two reasons. First, commercial cattlemen would have more information on the traits they care about, especially when compared to other breeds. Second, by focusing on the traits that create great cattle, by giving breeders a greater role in EPD calculations, and by creating incentives for genetic concentration of the Hereford breed, Hereford cattle should steadily migrate towards the kind of cattle that made beef in America great in the first place.
 
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And a page from Ted Slanker:

http://www.slanker.com/bulls/id73.htm

EPDs: A Problem, Not a Solution
When I speak to cattlemen on my favorite topic, “Sustainable Beef Production,” I like to open it with the following aside.
“I’ve made just about every mistake a fellow can make in the beef cattle business. For sure I’ll make some more mistakes in the future. In fact, I’m probably making some mistakes right now and don’t even know it.”
That’s right. I’m not like most of the cattlemen you know. I wasn’t born knowing everything there is to know about the cattle business. So I had to learn it the hard way, and I did it with my own money. My desire to be economically and environmentally sustainable motivated me into keeping an open mind and to seek knowledge. I sought out the fundamental reasons for why things happen like they do, which resulted in a better understanding of the trade.
One of the undesirable side effects of learning new things is that I’ve had to eat my own words–over and over again. And wouldn’t you know it, it happened again just recently.
Ever since the mid-1980s, I’ve been called “Mr. EPD.” Many times the label was sarcastic rather than complimentary, which was probably because numbers give some folks a headache. On the other hand, I’ve always liked numbers and minored in statistics in college. So I was a quick study on EPDs and drove folks crazy with them.
Yes, for 15 years I selected the best total performance bulls I could find. I used sophisticated computer searches, and in the early years of EPDs, I bought bulls from folks who didn’t even know their bulls were outliers. In my quest for the best I kept stacking EPD pedigrees like the books said. My numbers improved, and eventually some of my sires ranked within the top 100 total performance bulls in the breed. But even with all the good news, I wasn’t happy.
Back in 1980 I had a show string and a big truck to haul it around. I was a really big deal. But I kept good records, and my winners weren’t performing. I canned the whole venture and went after total performance.
I did my best to select for the right type. For years my bulls were frame score 5s to 6s. They were thick and came from superior cows. I bred my cows based on sire groupings. Therefore, after a few generations many of my cows were 15/16th sisters! My goal was not only superior performance, but uniformity and predictability. This time, however, instead of the averages telling me I had a problem, it was my eyes and a flat bell curve.
Over the years I had asked around about linebreeding. Folks generally condemned it. I read some on it, but the authors weren’t encouraging. For sure, the idea of inbreeding one’s cows sounded sacrilegious.
Several years ago I started using some of my own bulls on some very distantly related cows. Then two years ago I used some on distantly related cows. For sure, I was afraid of inbreeding. I was just trying to save money by not buying replacement bulls. Then last year, four out of the five bulls I used were born here. I bred them to “distant” relatives. Their calves are just now arriving.
Jim Lents: Master Breeder
Last fall I was contacted by Jim Lents (580-246-3560 in the evening or [email protected]), a fellow breeder. Jim immediately struck me as a knowledgeable fellow. What I liked most were his positive views regarding linebreeding. That inspired me to get in touch with managers of the linebred Hereford herd in Miles City, Montana. They sent me some information, which created more questions than answers. Then I bought Jim’s book, “The Basis of Linebreeding.” Soon, I was communicating via the Internet with Jim on at least a weekly basis.
Jim told me that the only way to get cattle to replicate like a flock of quail was to linebreed. He provided numerous examples of how it works and why. Jim exhibited tremendous patience by explaining various aspects of breeding over and over again. For sure, I’m now convinced I wasted many years in my program by not linebreeding sooner and closer. But there was one point where I disagreed with Jim. That was regarding the value of EPDs. He said EPDs were worthless. That I found hard to believe.
For months Jim kept repeating the fundamental requirements for the cattle type that works and the types that don’t. On that I’d agree, but for the life of me, I just knew I had to measure to see the results. But then the fundamental truth finally dawned on me and I had to write the following note to Jim, which I did by publicly posting it on an Internet chat room.
Confessions of a Sinner
“If I’m right about balance in the mineral, then maybe (gulp) you’re right about EPDs. That’s why I thought I’d ‘drag’ you into this. It will give me a chance to bring up (once again) one of your favorite topics.
“I’ve been stewing on your (and Kent’s, and others) ‘backward’ thinking regarding EPDs. I’ve read your book and several issues of the ‘Lamplighter.’ I’ve read your posts until I’ve been blurry eyed. I’ve tried to examine your approach from your viewpoint, my viewpoint, other viewpoints, and from every angle.
“Over 15 years ago I was known as ‘Mr. EPD.’ So I’d heard all kinds of folks over the years condemn and sneer at EPDs. All of them did it for reasons that didn’t make any sense. For the most part they didn’t know how EPDs were calculated or how they were used. Then you called up one day. You tweaked my brain on linebreeding like no one else. I’d been floating around on the edges of it for years in my program, had searched around and asked questions of the most ‘knowledgeable types,’ but no one gave me satisfactory answers that enlightened me. But you did. The only problem was, you ‘didn’t know nothing’ about EPDs. Hell, you didn’t even send your data, if you collected it, to the AHA to compile EPDs. Obviously you were a lost soul.
“But, as I said, I’ve been stewing on your blasphemy. I’ve gone out and looked at my cattle. That was always disappointing. Sure I’ve got some ‘great ones,’ but the uniformity and predictability I’ve strived for all too many years is not there. And I’ve used EPDs in my search.
“Another nagging point is that some years ago I started thinking that at some point there has to be an optimum BALANCE in my EPDs. For instance, just like high birth weights are bad, so could high milk be a disaster. The idea of balance really started coming into play when in 1997 I stopped feeding hay to the entire herd and stopped graining weaned calves. When I eliminated all subsidies from my program, man it was like hitting a wall around here. Quite a few of the ‘good ones’ weren’t so good after all.
“So this thing about balance and optimizing kept ringing away in my head. It nagged at me, and your continuing blather about EPDs only measuring pounds, etc. ad nauseam, just pounded away in my head. Egad, I thought I was going mad!
“Anyway, now I’m starting to calm down a little. I’ve decided that maybe I should look more and weigh less. I’m thinking that if I select for the optimum balance of traits that perform best in my environment and put a good eating experience on the table, then why in the hell would I need EPDs. Yes, I’m going to say it: ‘Selecting cattle by maximizing EPDs in any one or all areas can tip the cattle out of balance. Since EPDs are for maximizing not optimizing, they’re worthless.’
“A good genetic package is a well-balanced package that performs optimally in one’s environment. Maintaining and reproducing that balance is the key. Tweaking the optimum balance, which is the optimum genetic package for the environment, by asking for more here and less there can tip the scale so that it is out of balance. Therefore, change has to come slowly and it has to involve the entire package, not just a few popular traits.
“Damn Jim, you’re not so bad after all. I do think I see the light!”
Yes, that’s it. It’s like as if I’m looking at my cattle for the first time. What package works and which packages don’t is most important. I’m factoring in more traits now than ever before. And I can’t wait for this year’s breeding season to start. I’ll be linebreeding exclusively and close with a plan for improvement, and I won’t select my bulls on the basis of EPDs.


Copyright 2001, Slanker Productions, Powderly, Texas
Ted E. Slanker, Jr.
R.R. 2, Box 175
Powderly, TX 75473-9740
Ofc: 903-732-4653
Fax: 903-732-4151
E-mail: [email protected]
 
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Herefords.US

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I hope both authors will forgive MY posting the bulk of THEIR thoughts here, but I thought it would help in the discussion.

There are some great minds here and I would appreciate comments and discussion from everyone who wants to participate.

George
 

Frankie

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I'm not sure where you're going here.

1. EPDs aren't the silver bullet for anything. They're simply a way to compare traits of breeding animals against other animals. Only the traits that can be measured, BW, WW, etc, have EPDs. Some breeds have EPDs for Disposition; some don't. I don't know how you actually measure Vigor. Conformation and Doability are strictly opinions and I don't believe there will ever be an EPD for them. Angus has a Yearling and Mature Frame Score. I'm surprised that Herefords don't.

2. Allowing the breeder to manipulate the data on his cattle is not an answer to anything, IMO. EPDs aren't based on one or two or three animals, at least Angus EPDs. They're based on performance records of dams, sires, sibs, half sibs, uncles, aunts, etc. The more data, the more accurate the EPD, but it's always the EXPECTED Progeny Difference.

3. If EPDs don't work for you, fine. But they work for a lot of people who use them the way they're intended, not as the "final answer" to a breeding question. It seems to me that what you're proposing is simply another version of EPDs.

4. EPDs are not "predictions of FUTURE progeny compared to the average animals in the breed". Averages change with every sire summary. EPDs should be used to compare one breeding animal to another, not the breed average.

If you meant this for Hereford breeders only, let me know and I'll delete this post.
 
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Frankie":2hkgum94 said:
I'm not sure where you're going here.

If you meant this for Hereford breeders only, let me know and I'll delete this post.

Frankie, I'm not sure where I'm going either...only looking for discussion and hopefully some clearing up of the doubts that I have about whether EPDs on animals that don't have a number of progeny have any real validity at all.

Open to discussion from all breeds/breeders and anyone interested.

George
 
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Would it be accurate to assume that Angus EPDs are more accurate than Hereford EPDs at this point because there is much more data that's been collected?

Also, through the greater use of AI in the Angus breed, are the cattle less genetically diverse?

Are there Angus breeders who have been "left behind" because they have closed their herds and their cattle aren't "fairly" compared to the breed mainstream(in terms of EPDs)?

Are there Angus breeders who discount the value of EPDs?

George
 

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I think that if you could breed cattle without the EPDs and do a good job at it, you can use EPDs and get a lot of beneficial use out of them. If you know nothing about cattle, phenotype, breeding, selection, pedigrees, etc and descide to go in the cow breeding business based on EPD spreadsheets.......I think you are going to run into trouble. When a train wreck occurs, some will blame the EPDs; but the wreck was really due to breeders not paying due diligence to factors like matching phenotype to environment, selecting sound cattle to begin with, and completely ignoring everything but the EPDs. I would argue that in that case there was going to be a train wreck whether EPDs got involved or not.

I really question why we are still pushing the growth numbers. 30 years ago, lack of growth was a huge problem in Herefords AND Anguses. To me, that problem has been addressed. WHY are we still ga-ga over bulls that are in the top 5% of the breed for these traits? I don't see where the commercial market is demanding 650+++ pound steers. The top 5% of the Hereford breed is a +54 weaning wt and a +90 yearling. The top 5% of the Angus breed is a +53 weaning and a +96 yearling (and I know there is a difference between the two breeds EPDs). Both those bulls in theory CAN improve a lot of commercial herds; BUT buy that big strapping +96 yearling wt Angus bull and breed him to a set of larger than avg commercial cows and then follow up those heifers to that +90 Hereford and let heterosis kick in to produce a set of Black Baldie heifers. There are (I'm sure) a lot of exceptions; but I would be willing to bet that most of the time that set of baldies is NOT going to be very easy keeping or very efficient and their mature size could surpass that of many "terminal" breeds. On a lot of ranches they are going to disappoint.
 

Frankie

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Herefords.US":u68ooqds said:
Would it be accurate to assume that Angus EPDs are more accurate than Hereford EPDs at this point because there is much more data that's been collected?

I can't speak for Herefords. But I do trust Angus EPDs. I can look at EPDs on cows we bought years ago and their EPDs are virtually the same as when we bought them. BUT, and a big but, we use mainly proven bulls with hundreds of performance records on the data base. And the cows are mostly several generations of performance breeding with hundreds of performance records reported.

Also, through the greater use of AI in the Angus breed, are the cattle less genetically diverse?

No. Whatever you're looking for in the Angus breed, I think you'll find a "line" of cattle that will provide it. Some people complain about the diversity, but we run cattle in very diverse conditions in different parts of the country.

Are there Angus breeders who have been "left behind" because they have closed their herds and their cattle aren't "fairly" compared to the breed mainstream(in terms of EPDs)?

I don't know if they've been "left behind" but years ago a young couple bought a well known line bred herd here in OK when the owner died. He had not enrolled the herd in the AHIR program. When the new owners did, the EPDs were below breed average because the data wasn't there. I don't know if they were "left behind" because I don't know what their plans were for the herd.

Are there Angus breeders who discount the value of EPDs?

George

Oh, yes. :)
 

Brandonm2

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I have a lot of problems with breeding by the EPDs and I agree with most of the criticism. BUT most of these guys don't present any real alternatives.........

We could go back to the day of picking this bull over this other bull because some goofy show judge I have never met said this one's daddy was better at some show. Is that a better system???

Or we could go back to the day when some old dude showed us on paper where this bull traces back to "The Great" Joe Bob the IXth bull 8 different ways in the pedigree. Now I never saw the Joe Bob bull and the breeder probably hadn't either and all we really knew about how great the "Great" was was because everybody we talked to and our daddy said he was "Great" and this bull may or may not look anything like his esteemed ancestor; but he is "linebred" so that automatically makes him good.......etc, etc. Is THAT really the system we want to be using to select our seedstock?????

Or we could go back to just "eye balling" and not taking anything else into consideration. I don't really know how to eyeball and tell that a bull comes from a lineage that does not marble well and it is kind of hard to identify the freak that throws the 100 pound birth weights just by eye balling him and all my eyeball tells me about a bull is that I like the way he looks today!! The other 30 half sibs back on the farm may have weaned off at 405 lbs; but the ONE in front of me LOOKS growthy. There were some really nice profiling growthy bulls that won ribbons at shows back in the 80s, whose daughters did not milk worth a diddly.....but they looked good. There CAN be information in the EPDs that I COULD actually use. I am a huge proponent of eye balling the cattle; but is that really the ONLY tool in the breeder's tool box??

Or we could just pick the bulls from the breeder who has the best "reputation". There are two kinds of reputations; the one that is built up over time by producing good cattle and excellent service and there is the kind generated by mailing out newsletter, catalogs, fliers, and magazine ads. I don't think you would lose TOO badly by just relying on the mysterious wisdom of the first type of reputation ranch. The second type of reputation ranch just means the guy has more money to spend on marketing. Either way, you are essentially just "multiplying" an elite breeder's genetics. There is nothing wrong with that; BUT as we have seen from some of the bull studs......their judgement is not always completely BRILLIANT either.

There is no EASY way to breed livestock. The numbers are not a magic bullet; but jettisoning the numbers comes with it's own set of risks.
 

DOC HARRIS

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George-

Yes, there are Angus Breeder's who discount the Values of EPD's, just as I think that there are breeder's of EVERY breed who discount EPD values. . . . .and I think with good reason! Your comment:


By chasing growth EPD’s and not focusing on efficiency, Hereford breeders are creating large cattle. My experience is that dams reach mature weight at approximately five years. I have sold mature Hereford cattle bought from well-known, reputable Hereford breeders, that weighed in excess of 1800 pounds. I sold one cow that exceeded 2000 pounds. I am confident that Hereford cows exist that can consistently wean calves at more than 600 pounds, up from about 450 pounds 30 years ago. I believe the current cows, however, exceed 1500 pounds at maturity whereas than cows 30 years ago likely were at least 300 pounds lighter. From an efficiency standpoint, a 450 pound calf from a 1200 pound dam equals a 600 pound calf from a 1500 pound dam.


You are ABSOLUTELY correct! The nation's "Cow Herd" average weights are absurdly high, and chasing growth EPD's, along with too high Milk EPD's are the essential operative causes of it!

The EPD "game" has been hamstrung and hampered to the point of "suffocation of numbers" in recent years by the 'overdoing' of a good thing. The original purposes of EPD's were to help breeders to improve their breeding decisions. IN MY OPINION, until we USE the technology of DNA testing to enhance the accuracy of EPD's, we will continue to confuse breeders, instigate arguments as assinine as those "discussions" as to whether a Ford or a Chevrolet is the better vehicle - and that is not even mentioning Dodge or Toyota!

Certain Breed Associations have included additional EPD's in the mix for various traits - docility, back fat, combining two traits into one, throwing accuracies to the wolves insofar as viability and practicality is concerned - and that, In My Opinion, has done damage to the reliability of acceptance and significance to the average Beef Breeder of ALL breeds!

I am a strong advocate of anything which can be of legitimate assistance to a breeder in his business. However, this current headlong rush to discover something - ANYTHING - which will substitute for good common sense, and encourage a breeder to practice flat out laziness and to "Breed By The Numbers" - EPD numbers ONLY, is similar to building a house with Leggo Blocks and ignoring the foundation. As it is with almost anything, if you play around with something of value long enough, presently it is overdone, and becomes more trouble than it is worth and very quickly is useless. I feel that the obsession and fixation of EPD's as the "Golden Fleece" of beef breeding has reached that point, and as a result the "believers vs. the non-believers" argument has resulted in a misunderstanding that is hurting everyone!

To concentrate on EPD's - ONLY - in a breeding program and ignore Phenotype and Percentages of Heritability is a formula for disaster in a livestock operation. It MUST be a balancing act, and NOT a single trait selection function. And the best way to really know what you are doing with the EPD game, is to thoroughly understand the rules, and how the "game" is played!

My advice is to take a deep breath - wipe the cobwebs from your mind and concentrate on MODERATION in trait selection. If one attempts to remember and understand ALL of these "perfect answers" to the Beef Producers Problems, you are going to find yourself staring at the ceiling at 3:00 AM and wondering what happened to Clarabelle Cow and Ferdinand the Bull!

DOC HARRIS
 

SEC

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A question I have asked many times before is.....

Name one herd that has made it to the top with the help of EPD's?

If Leachman couldn't have an excellent herd of cattle with all the number crunching he did, I doubt anyone could. I am not saying the cows were bad, but it seemed the cooperators always had the better cattle.
 

Brandonm2

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SEC":bdwdkiyh said:
A question I have asked many times before is.....

Name one herd that has made it to the top with the help of EPD's?

If Leachman couldn't have an excellent herd of cattle with all the number crunching he did, I doubt anyone could. I am not saying the cows were bad, but it seemed the cooperators always had the better cattle.

How are you defining "top"???? IF this is a business like any other business then it is measured purely in profits and market share so the "top" would be he who sells the most bulls for the most money. I don't think any of those "top" herds are dumb enough to use EPDs alone; but clearly most of the "top" breeders ARE using EPDs to "help" in their selection decisions. I see the EPDs in most everybody's ads and often some claims are made based solely on the EPDs even when the accuracy of the EPD is so low as to be laughable. Even Ohlde and Pharo use the EPDs, particularly $EN in their marketing to "help" sell bulls and semen.
 

Badlands

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Some of Willham's comments are out of context.

They were originally made nearly 30 years ago, and EPD calculation methods have changed since then.

With this in mind, the author then goes on to make some faulty conclusions based on the wrong assumptions going into the thought process.

Badlands
 

Frankie

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SEC":3noxynrl said:
A question I have asked many times before is.....

Name one herd that has made it to the top with the help of EPD's?

If Leachman couldn't have an excellent herd of cattle with all the number crunching he did, I doubt anyone could. I am not saying the cows were bad, but it seemed the cooperators always had the better cattle.

I'd say Gardiners have "made it to the top" and Henry Gardiner gives much of the credit to EPDs.
 
OP
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Herefords.US

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SEC":bessn69d said:
A question I have asked many times before is.....

Name one herd that has made it to the top with the help of EPD's?

If Leachman couldn't have an excellent herd of cattle with all the number crunching he did, I doubt anyone could. I am not saying the cows were bad, but it seemed the cooperators always had the better cattle.

Maybe not EPDs specifically, but I believe a number of herds have become successful through performance testing and selection.

Cooper and Holden are the first examples that come to my mind.

Having experience with a herd that did the old TPR program for a number of years, I have seen the value of inherd performance testing.

BUT EPDs are different. Perhaps I just haven't put them into the proper perspective yet.

My observation is that EPDs vary from being very close to actual experience in animals (bulls) that have a large number of progeny to nowhere close to actual experience in animals that have little or no progeny recorded.

Yet, producers tout EPDs as a measure of an animal's probable FUTURE performance in their marketing. P606's BW EPD is but one example where his preliminary marketing was completely misleading in terms of what actual experience was going to be.

And some knowledgable cattlemen that I know predicted that eventual change in P606's BW EPD based on the rest of the information available.

Yet, BW EPD still seems to be the one EPD that posters here seem most concerned with.

If the BW EPD number is (could be?) nowhere near what actual experience is on unproven bulls, how can you put that much weight on it in your selection criteria?

Is a pound (or two or three) difference in BW EPD on a group of unproven bulls a factor that a cattle breeder wants to put PRIMARY importance on in selection? Aren't their actual BWs and BW indexes as important or more important?

George
 

Frankie

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Yet, BW EPD still seems to be the one EPD that posters here seem most concerned with.

From the people I know that use Herefords, BW is something Hereford breeders should be emphasizing. When we first started selling bulls at our bull test station, about the only EPD bull buyers looked at was the BW EPD. Then they started looking more at WW, YW, etc. Today, they want it all: reasonable BW, good growth + carcass.

If the BW EPD number is (could be?) nowhere near what actual experience is on unproven bulls, how can you put that much weight on it in your selection criteria?

EPDs aren't perfect. But if you have a bull with a calving ease EPD, his dam has a calving ease EPD, his sire, both grandsires all have calving ease EPDs, then you've got a very good chance of having a calving ease bull. But how can you NOT give BW EPDs some weight in your decision making, especially if you're breeding heifers. Losing one heifer/calf hurts both the heart and the checkbook.

Is a pound (or two or three) difference in BW EPD on a group of unproven bulls a factor that a cattle breeder wants to put PRIMARY importance on in selection? Aren't their actual BWs and BW indexes as important or more important?

George

A pound or two isn't a big factor for me; pedigree is more important when it gets that close. But every bull buyer makes his own decision based on his experience and management. A guy who checks his cows daily might be willing to use a higher BW bull than one who only sees them once a month.

I don't pay much attention to ACTUALS. They can be greatly influenced by management.
 

MikeC

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Name one herd that has made it to the top with the help of EPD's?

My guess would be: ALL OF THEM.

Without Epd's there would not be the extensive database and recordkeeping that is required now.

You cannot manage what you cannot measure.

EPD's do not have to "HIGH" in the growth departments, or "LOW", in the BW category to be good.

It depends on what your target is. :roll:
 

Brandonm2

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I put more weight on the birth weight EPD than the actual birth weight. There are too many factors that can influence actual birth weight (especially now that ~half the hot prospects are ETs) too put a LOT of weight on that number. Birth wt EPD on the other hand tells us that his bloodline typically tends toward being big. That said, obviously a 50% accuracy or an 85% accuracy from a proven bull is a lot more meaningful number than the number you are going to see out of virgin bull.

To me semen from a bull who has progeny on the ground, in the feedlot, in the meatcase, in the showring, and out there raising and siring calves in the pastures of America ought to be worth more than semen from ANY one year old boy bull whether he just got a show ribbon or not; but the real world does not always work the way that logic tells us that it should.
 

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