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EPD's are not the ONLY story!

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Fire Sweep Ranch

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This is meant not to slam EPD's, but just to give a great example of how EPD's are only a small tool when deciding matings.

So, we had a calf born last night (in the freezing cold weather), 290 days gestation and 64.4 pounds weighed 12 hours after birth. So why is there a story? Let me tell you;
His dam is a 3 year old half blood, sired by Beef Maker out of a Pioneer angus cow. Her current EPD for calving ease is 16 (in the top 10% for the breed) and birth weight is -1.8 (top 15% for the breed). Her first calf was sired by Pays To Dream (11.9 CE and .6 BW). That calf was a bull, weighed 60 pounds, and she calved on 274 days gestation. That is what I was hoping for and expecting using a calving ease sire. We attempted to AI her several times after that calving, but she would not stick. I had a really nice, 11 month old embryo bull sired by Macho and out of an Avalanche cow I decided to cover her live with so we would not lose more time on the cow and she stuck. His EPD's are not so good; he has a calving ease of 1.7 (bottom 1% of the breed) and birth weight of 4.2 EPD (again, bottom 5% of the breed EPD). If you were to go off of just the sire's EPDs alone, you would think this cow was going to have a monster of a calf with her 290 days gestation. But she had a very nice 64 pound calf. Do I blame the sire for the small birthweight? NO (he himself was 95 pounds at birth)! The dam is the one responsible for the birth weight on the calf.
Too many people are quick to blame a bull when they have a big calf, or problems, but there are so many more factors involved in the size of a calf at birth, besides just the bull! The sire of the calf born last night will throw big calves on cows that tend to have bigger calves (and I would NEVER recommend using him on heifers, EVER, unless he proved to always have small calves- thus having accuracy), but put him on a cow like the one above and she will always have a little calf... that is HER genetics! By the way, her weight before calving (about 30 days ago) was 1240, so she is a little smaller than most of my cows. She has been on a diet of grass hay (13% protein) and alfalfa (15%) round bales, free choice. Her body condition score was a 6.0.



And here she is just a few days ago:

And the sire of the calf, before we sold him:


I just wanted to point out that there are lots of parts that go into calf size, but the cow has more to do with it than most people give them credit for! Her EPD's tell me she will likely always have smaller calves... so far they are correct. The sire's EPD tell me he will have big calves, so far they are incorrect... :lol: One calf is NOT a reason to assume he will have small calves... that is where accuracy is so important when looking at the EPD of a bull you plan on using! :nod:
 

wbvs58

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I aggree FSR, the dam and the feed. Feed especially in heifers as they have nothing to do during gestation other than to grow themselves and the calf and if the feed is way surplus to their growth requirements it goes straight to the calf.

Would your bull's actual BW have been influenced much by the recipient cow and as a result increased his EPD?

Ken
 

Fire Sweep Ranch

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Very good point Ken! The recip cow that carried that bull calf always has huge babies, even when we put calving ease embryos in her. However, when the ASA configures the EPD's, the recip cow is not figured into the data. So, the sire of the embryo bull, 3C Macho, has a actual CE of -1.4 and BW of 3.9 pounds, with a 96% accuracy. THAT is where his EPD's come from. Also, that was embryo number two from that mating, and the other one was also a bull, that weighed 96 pounds.
When I sell an embryo bull, I inform the buyers about the actual birthweight and the influence the recip cow has on that. It is then that I rely a little more on the EPD's of the dam and sire than the actual birthweight. The ASA keeps a nice database, and I can look up every calf a cow or bull has produced, and give them that data also for averages if they so want.
 

WalnutCrest

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The relative temperatures during pregnancy can really affect calf size.

A contemporary group of 3/4 siblings born 5hrs north of the Canadian border will be quite a bit larger than an identically bred group of contemporaries near Houston.
 

TCRanch

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Couldn't agree more. We primarily calve in the spring but just had 2 calves; one from a cow that's almost 11, bred back immediately a couple years ago & we ended up with 2 calves from her that year. Anyway, she's a huge cow, prob around 1800 lbs & just dropped an 85 lb heifer even though she was bred to a calving ease heifer bull that typically throws around 68 lbs. The 2nd cow is 6, also a good 1800 lbs and aborted her calf 3 months early last Jan but also bred back immediately with the same bull. Found her with a heifer calf this morning, can't be more than 70 lbs tops (can't weigh or tag her yet, she's a pistol).

That said, the 2nd cow never really has had big calves but they have always ended up at a good 650 lbs when we sell them.
 

dun

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A post from 2003
EPD discussions alwasy remind me of years ago when we used a Lincoln Red bull on a lot of clients cows and heifers. One client bred a couple of dozen cows to the bull and all the calves were in the 65-70 lb range. Except one cow that dropped a 100+ pound calf. The next year we used an Angus bull on the same cows and all the cows, including the monsters mom had calves that ran around 75-85 lbs. The next year we used the Lincoln Red bull again, every cow had a nice small calf, except the one. Her calf was even bigger that year then the earlier one. For some reason that cow and bull combination just didn't work, or maybe worked too well. The nick is always the question. Some matings just don't work no matter how accurate your data. In subsequent years we used different bulls and this one cows calves alwasy fell within the range of all the others. Most of these cows were what at that time called Ankina, Angus X Chianina.

dun
 

cotton1

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Firesweep- Just curious how you measure bw? I use a scale and sling, a friend uses a tape. We have conversation about the two from time to time. Just by the picture I think that calf weighs out way more than 60 some odd pounds, more like 80 couple. But that's from a picture and what I like to call truck window weighing-just my guess from looking at a picture.

No intent to criticize, just to learn and reference in conversation about how to measure calfs bw. My personal Birth weights are typically higher than most even on the same AI bull.It is possible that the scale I have been using is not accurate, or the way I hold it up etc.

I think that you are spot on in your assessment. The mama cow contributes 1/2 of the genetic makeup of the calf. Too many of us registered breeders seem to assume that the old commercial breeders idea of using a better than average bull on barely average cows will produce a above average calf. I have tried it both ways, and am sure that the mama plays a big role in using EPDs. A good average of the parents is what I base my expectations on with my calfs.

Great point you are making in this thread. Hats off.

Cotton1
 

Margonme

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cotton1":1f7442lx said:
Firesweep- Just curious how you measure bw? I use a scale and sling, a friend uses a tape. We have conversation about the two from time to time. Just by the picture I think that calf weighs out way more than 60 some odd pounds, more like 80 couple. But that's from a picture and what I like to call truck window weighing-just my guess from looking at a picture.

No intent to criticize, just to learn and reference in conversation about how to measure calfs bw. My personal Birth weights are typically higher than most even on the same AI bull.It is possible that the scale I have been using is not accurate, or the way I hold it up etc.

I think that you are spot on in your assessment. The mama cow contributes 1/2 of the genetic makeup of the calf. Too many of us registered breeders seem to assume that the old commercial breeders idea of using a better than average bull on barely average cows will produce a above average calf. I have tried it both ways, and am sure that the mama plays a big role in using EPDs. A good average of the parents is what I base my expectations on with my calfs.

Great point you are making in this thread. Hats off.

Cotton1

Fire Sweep weighs them. They have an electronic scales in their chute.
 

Fire Sweep Ranch

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cotton1":19j2p1bh said:
Firesweep- Just curious how you measure bw? I use a scale and sling, a friend uses a tape. We have conversation about the two from time to time. Just by the picture I think that calf weighs out way more than 60 some odd pounds, more like 80 couple. But that's from a picture and what I like to call truck window weighing-just my guess from looking at a picture.

No intent to criticize, just to learn and reference in conversation about how to measure calfs bw. My personal Birth weights are typically higher than most even on the same AI bull.It is possible that the scale I have been using is not accurate, or the way I hold it up etc.

I think that you are spot on in your assessment. The mama cow contributes 1/2 of the genetic makeup of the calf. Too many of us registered breeders seem to assume that the old commercial breeders idea of using a better than average bull on barely average cows will produce a above average calf. I have tried it both ways, and am sure that the mama plays a big role in using EPDs. A good average of the parents is what I base my expectations on with my calfs.

Great point you are making in this thread. Hats off.

Cotton1

We have a True Test scale we weigh everything on, including calves (calibrated every few months, especially if we move it to weigh hay bales). That can be a pain, because we have to put the calf on the 4 wheeler and ride them up if the cow is far away. We were lucky with this guy, I just slowly walked behind him while pushing him up the hill and into the barn.If you notice, his weight was actually 64.4 pounds, it is that accurate. Pictures are deceiving. His bones are very fine and small compared to my PB simm calves.
No criticism taken, it is a good question. We even weighed out 25 pounds of stock salt on it today to mix with with a 50 pound bag of cotton seed meal for the group. We love the scale, beside the chute it was one of the best investments we made several years ago.
 

Chocolate Cow

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FireSweep, would you tell me how you calibrate your scale? I have a Gallagher and it appears to add weight. I've weighed 50lb sacks of salt then realized the salt probably isn't exactly 50lbs since it's bagged at a "mom & pop" store. My scale appears to add 3-4 lbs per 100 lbs, so if I'm weighing a 600lb animal, it's adding at least 24 lbs. :frowns:
 

Fire Sweep Ranch

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Our feed mill weighs sacks for me just for that purpose, then I use those to calibrate. Most feed sacks from the mill weigh 51 pounds, and I always make sure I have 250 pounds to check it. I should be checking it at a higher weight, but I am too lazy to move that many sacks and if my cows are off by a few pounds, well... I could care less! Honestly, our scale is pretty darn accurate. The biggest problem we find with an error is the scale moving just slightly against the chute walls, or manure getting under it. We are constantly cleaning it and checking it (found a dead rabbit one time under it... not sure how it ever got there). When we weigh the calves we completely open the chute so nothing touches the scale (our chute has doors that swing open at the head of the chute, so we can open and clip cattle in the neck region), and the babies are stood on the scale and do not typically go anywhere since they are just hours old.
If I think it is off, I will weigh myself, since I know how much I weigh.... and find the error and fix it.
 

WalnutCrest

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...I have no idea how much I weigh. Currently there is a intra family disagreement over the issue; the range is about 15% of the low end guess.

Calibrating the scales and reality is a good thing.
 

True Grit Farms

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Red Bull Breeder":3krl2730 said:
High Grit the enhanced epds are only as good as the epds the dna is applied to. Adding dna to junk is still junk.

I don't understand? I do know if you breed a bull to a cow not all the DNA is split 50-50 in the calf. I would think the use of EPD's and DNA would add up to more accurate numbers.
 

Chocolate Cow

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Putting sacks of salt into the chute, then lifting them back out was not fun. It seemed like the more I tried, the crazier it got. That's when I realized the sacks probably varied in weight. And, absolutely, keeping the weigh bars cleaned of dirt/manure is vital. Thanks for your help. I'll have to find something with the correct weight. and has handles. and is way easier than sacks!
 

cotton1

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I kinda figured you used a electronic scale with a BW that included 10ths. My hanging scale has increments of 2lbs and if I lean back too much the calfs weight will be lower. My friend uses a tape around the calfs hoof. My argument with him is that things like back line length and bone can effect the weight, but thats just my opinion.

I have a set of Tru-Test alley scales that I like a lot. I cant use them for BW much though because I need the cow to drop in a small paddock behind the barn to use it. I do get lucky sometimes and get to weigh them like that, but I can take the hanging scale to the calf.

With so many ways to weigh a calf there are lots of opportunity's for EPDs to be inaccurate. Accuracy is important when selecting a bull to me especially for heifers. That is one of the reasons I dont understand so many breeders using what I call the bull of the month in their AI programs. DNA test help, but dont replace accuracy. It seems that the larger scale breeders have to come out with a new yearling bull every year that sells for so many thousands of dollars and has such a pedigree that everybody has to use it.EPDs change with data one way or the other, whether that data is reported correctly or not.

Another thing that I thought of on this topic was the difference between BW and calving ease. The shape of the calf has a lot to do with it. Ive mentioned on CT before what a lady friend told me about calving ease: " That mama can spit out a 100lb vienna sausage way easier than she can a 70lb bowling ball", or something like that. I couldnt argue with the lady as she had given birth like 4 times herself.

I study pedigrees because the older stock interest me. A few things I have noticed are pre-epds line breeding was more common which likely meant more predictable cattle in general. Also that most mama cows have a much lower accuracy than the older proven bulls that are available thru AI. That and proven doesnt have to mean you use EPDs. The friend I referenced about using the tape has a herd of cattle that are at least double bred, and more like quadruple bred to the same bull. His current herd sire is a son of that bull, and does not have EPDs that indicate easy calving. They are not bad but more like a 3 CE and 2 BW, just not what you would pick out of a semen directory to AI with. BUT, because he knows the cows and the sire and their gene pool is limited, he calfs heifers to that bull every year with no problem and has moderate birth weights.

The mama cows genes count too. Accuracy is important on both sides of a calfs pedigree.As of late I have been looking to use EPDs in a different way than most. I am looking to make middle of the road cattle so to speak. If you look at the AICA home page and search up some pedigrees you will find a tab for the animal selected for EPD. If you do that and scroll down you will see a chart. 50th percentile is the middle and anything over that is green, anything under that is blue. I am finding that cattle that are just about breed average for every single trait are better cattle with less problems. Problems like too much milk epd making hard keepers, or too much calving ease making poor performers etc.

Not sure if other breeds use this type of graph on their sites. Just my observations as I have cattle that are in the top, or green for every trait, and some middle of the road type. The pre-epd days I guess were more trial than error, but maybe made better breeders.

Cotton1
 

Nesikep

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I know some of my cows throw big calves, and it doesn't matter what bull you breed them to... and would probably do the same with an ET calf as well.. From one family of cows, one side routinely throws the smallest BW's of the herd (~80lb), the other side throws the heaviest (~120+ lb).. neither side gives me any trouble so I don't worry about it.

I agree that calf shape makes a big difference in how they slip out.. Salers are among the most noodly calves.. fine heads and bones, and long

Here's a vid of one of my 140 lb thumpers being born.. Yeah, she was a big cow.. I wonder at what weight she'd start having calving problems... 200 lb? That calf's brother is Hector, a bull my friend has.. only had to pull one calf out of a tiny longhorn cow in 4 years.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwcnbPEmnRs
 

Ebenezer

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True Grit Farms":1uf81now said:
Red Bull Breeder":1uf81now said:
High Grit the enhanced epds are only as good as the epds the dna is applied to. Adding dna to junk is still junk.

I don't understand? I do know if you breed a bull to a cow not all the DNA is split 50-50 in the calf. I would think the use of EPD's and DNA would add up to more accurate numbers.
DNA enhanced is based on DNA sampled from other specific individual animals to set up the data base. If your animal is not closely kin, the data versus your animal(s) is going to be skewed.
 

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