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Genetic Improvements

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Arnold Ziffle

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Over time, quite a few posters have made references to genetic improvement in their breed, the practice of keeping heifers out of heifers since they should be representative of the latest and best genetics, the apparent lack of genetic improvements in some breeds, etc. I have absolutely no quarrel with those beliefs, notions or concepts.

But I don’t have readily available access to all the information that you seedstock raisers have from your respective breed organizations, so I wonder if some of you would care to comment or share some info. I’m curious about just how much genetic improvement really has been made in the last 25 years or so, of the sort that can be expressed tangibly. I understand that Hereford, red and black Angus all have a different year for establishing Zero for their EPDs (and probably Limo, Simmi, and others as well). But for example, I wonder how much have the breed averages improved, say in 5-year intervals, for weaning weight and yearling weight in each of those breeds. And I realize that not all genetic improvements can be expressed in terms of WW and YW --- does anybody care to comment on other improvements in their breed over those time periods that can be readily measured, for things like breed average IMF, REA, calving ease, etc.

I’m one of those many little operators that culls a few cows here and there, but if a cow regularly raises a “good” calf that I’m satisfied with I’m happy to keep her --- but I do buy new bulls more frequently. These genetic improvement issues are interesting to me, since I have not really studied the sort of genetic improvements that might be occurring in purebred operations and I wonder if I’m really falling too far behind the curve by not changing the cow herd out more frequently. Or is the tangible and measurable genetic improvement that is ongoing more subtle and subdued than all the talk would lead one to believe?
 

Campground Cattle

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Arnold Ziffle":1oukpjsn said:
Over time, quite a few posters have made references to genetic improvement in their breed, the practice of keeping heifers out of heifers since they should be representative of the latest and best genetics, the apparent lack of genetic improvements in some breeds, etc. I have absolutely no quarrel with those beliefs, notions or concepts.

But I don’t have readily available access to all the information that you seedstock raisers have from your respective breed organizations, so I wonder if some of you would care to comment or share some info. I’m curious about just how much genetic improvement really has been made in the last 25 years or so, of the sort that can be expressed tangibly. I understand that Hereford, red and black Angus all have a different year for establishing Zero for their EPDs (and probably Limo, Simmi, and others as well). But for example, I wonder how much have the breed averages improved, say in 5-year intervals, for weaning weight and yearling weight in each of those breeds. And I realize that not all genetic improvements can be expressed in terms of WW and YW --- does anybody care to comment on other improvements in their breed over those time periods that can be readily measured, for things like breed average IMF, REA, calving ease, etc.

I’m one of those many little operators that culls a few cows here and there, but if a cow regularly raises a “good” calf that I’m satisfied with I’m happy to keep her --- but I do buy new bulls more frequently. These genetic improvement issues are interesting to me, since I have not really studied the sort of genetic improvements that might be occurring in purebred operations and I wonder if I’m really falling too far behind the curve by not changing the cow herd out more frequently. Or is the tangible and measurable genetic improvement that is ongoing more subtle and subdued than all the talk would lead one to believe?


Arnold I'm also a small operator 25- 30 head.I'm in the same boat as you are on tangible results as the AHA recently went to TPR. I take a little different approach as I have bought cows versus bulls to improve my genetics. I have been working to get a more moderate framed Hereford with pigment around the eye. In my travels I'm not seeing the improvements that a lot of breeders are boasting. I am becoming more skeptical as I have not encountered the BW and YW many boast . The most reliable bloodline on BW and YW is the Braxton Giant I have found and run, which is a very old line that does not have the popularity today as the breeders who are putting advertisement money behind their cattle. The Braxton bloodline(from New Zealand) throws very small calves that grow off rapidly, it does not have the pigment that I want. I just wonder how questionable some of the EPD reporting is. So I have went to raising my own bulls to get the traits I want replacing cows to keep from inbreeding. This is also the reason I withdrew from TPR and became a pedigee breeder. I just don't believe the results everyone is boasting. This only applies to Herefords as I have no knowledge of the other breeds.
 

dun

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My opinion and just that.
One mans improvments is another mans curse. Chasing higher WW and YW leads to too large of cows. More dollars on groceries might balance out the improvment? in weights, but to me that's just trading dollars.
Most traits aren't all that heritable. People get excited about a trait that is 10% heritable, what about the other 90%.
It seems that Herefords that have good REA and Marbeling EPDs are high on back fat. So you get a higher quality grade but get docked on yield. Angus seem to balance things out better, but many of them are chasing the prime grade market and are letting the maternal qualities slip. We get carcass data back on our calves so we can see if we're heading in the direction we have chosen. But the feedlots can't and or generally don't feed for the exceptional calves, more the average to maybe slightly above average. So you end up with poor yield grades again because of overly fat calves.
After having been in this business for several years (40 plus), we've found that depending on your nmarket you don't need those sky high WW and YW. I'm aware that there are people that get jazzed up about a calf that weans at 60% and higher of the cows weight. Whopee. A heifer/cow that weans 50% or more of her body weight, stays in good enough condition to not only breed back but raise that next calf and breed back and not miss a year or a month for that matter, those are the kinds of cows that in the long run will make money. A cow that gives you 4 good calves in 4 years then goes on to keep doing her job are the REAL money makers. If a cow, no matter her age/pedigree/EPDs/ or wahtever, stays sound in feet, legs, udder, is easy to work, is fertile and raises a "good" calf, that's the kind to build success on.
Enough soapbox time!

dun
 

Campground Cattle

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dun":235p6v7g said:
My opinion and just that.
One mans improvments is another mans curse. Chasing higher WW and YW leads to too large of cows. More dollars on groceries might balance out the improvment? in weights, but to me that's just trading dollars.
Most traits aren't all that heritable. People get excited about a trait that is 10% heritable, what about the other 90%.
It seems that Herefords that have good REA and Marbeling EPDs are high on back fat. So you get a higher quality grade but get docked on yield. Angus seem to balance things out better, but many of them are chasing the prime grade market and are letting the maternal qualities slip. We get carcass data back on our calves so we can see if we're heading in the direction we have chosen. But the feedlots can't and or generally don't feed for the exceptional calves, more the average to maybe slightly above average. So you end up with poor yield grades again because of overly fat calves.
After having been in this business for several years (40 plus), we've found that depending on your nmarket you don't need those sky high WW and YW. I'm aware that there are people that get jazzed up about a calf that weans at 60% and higher of the cows weight. Whopee. A heifer/cow that weans 50% or more of her body weight, stays in good enough condition to not only breed back but raise that next calf and breed back and not miss a year or a month for that matter, those are the kinds of cows that in the long run will make money. A cow that gives you 4 good calves in 4 years then goes on to keep doing her job are the REAL money makers. If a cow, no matter her age/pedigree/EPDs/ or wahtever, stays sound in feet, legs, udder, is easy to work, is fertile and raises a "good" calf, that's the kind to build success on.
Enough soapbox time!

dun

Nuff Said very well put
 

Frankie

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Arnold Ziffle":2lnjkc7f said:
Over time, quite a few posters have made references to genetic improvement in their breed, the practice of keeping heifers out of heifers since they should be representative of the latest and best genetics, the apparent lack of genetic improvements in some breeds, etc. I have absolutely no quarrel with those beliefs, notions or concepts.

But I don’t have readily available access to all the information that you seedstock raisers have from your respective breed organizations, so I wonder if some of you would care to comment or share some info. I’m curious about just how much genetic improvement really has been made in the last 25 years or so, of the sort that can be expressed tangibly. I understand that Hereford, red and black Angus all have a different year for establishing Zero for their EPDs (and probably Limo, Simmi, and others as well). But for example, I wonder how much have the breed averages improved, say in 5-year intervals, for weaning weight and yearling weight in each of those breeds. And I realize that not all genetic improvements can be expressed in terms of WW and YW --- does anybody care to comment on other improvements in their breed over those time periods that can be readily measured, for things like breed average IMF, REA, calving ease, etc.

I’m one of those many little operators that culls a few cows here and there, but if a cow regularly raises a “good” calf that I’m satisfied with I’m happy to keep her --- but I do buy new bulls more frequently. These genetic improvement issues are interesting to me, since I have not really studied the sort of genetic improvements that might be occurring in purebred operations and I wonder if I’m really falling too far behind the curve by not changing the cow herd out more frequently. Or is the tangible and measurable genetic improvement that is ongoing more subtle and subdued than all the talk would lead one to believe?


The American Angus Assn averaged all the weaning weights reported in 1977 and set that as 0 for the BW EPD. They did the same for WW and YW. So in 1977, Angus EPDs were all 0. This year, average EPDs are BW: 2.6, WW 36 and YW 66. In 1977, the average actual BW of an Angus bull calf reported to AAA was 72 lbs, WW 500, and YW 881 lbs. In 2002 the average BW of an Angus bull reported to AAA was 81 lbs, WW 634, and YW 1,128 lbs. Average yearling height went from 45.8 in '77 to 50.5 in 2002. We've definitely increased weights, but you'd have to look at your individual operation to decide if that's good or bad.

We saw a lot of performance tests won by bulls gaining 4-4.5 lbs per day when we first started testing our bulls at the test station. Today we occasionally see a bull gain 6 lbs per day during the testing period and the high ADG bull is almost always over 5 lbs.

Personally, as long as the cows are raising good calves, I wouldn't be quick to replace them. When our heifers start raising better calves than a mature cow, we start looking at selling her. But I would recommend buying the best bulls you can so that when you do keep replacement heifers, they'll hopefully be better genetics than their dams.
 

Tc

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avrege anguss bull ww 634# is the bigest crock of bs ive ever heard.~~~~~~~~~~Tc
 

PATB

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Dad and I run around 64 brood cows plus replacements currently. We have kept records since 87 on all calves, bw, ww, and those we keep around yearling weights. We weigh the cows at 2 and 5 usually years of age. The weights are reported the Angus Assoc. The average weaning and yearling have increased considerably on the registered stock and average birth weights have drop. The mature cow herd size has decreased slightly on average. We use the data we collect to help select which cows stay and which ones need to be under someone elses management style. Good records and weights help you select which cattle work under your conditions and management styles.
 

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Arnold Ziffle":2w84zray said:
Or is the tangible and measurable genetic improvement that is ongoing more subtle and subdued than all the talk would lead one to believe?

OK, I’ll stir the pot a little on this one. Remember those “old timey” pictures of Hereford steers that would look deformed now? You know, from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s before people understood genetics, when they were so dumb they would trim steak until after they had been grilled? I know that’s not what the markets (read feedlots & slaughterhouses) want, but I’d rather have one of those red and white squatty boys in my freezer than the show ribbon winners of today.

Craig-TX
 

dun

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Another unsolicited opinion.
Show ring doesn't have a whole lot to do with the beef produciton industry. Too many of those hot house flowers would wilt in the real world of making meat and grading.

dun

Craig-TX":rql4wtc6 said:
OK, I’ll stir the pot a little on this one. Remember those “old timey” pictures of Hereford steers that would look deformed now? You know, from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s before people understood genetics, when they were so dumb they would trim steak until after they had been grilled? I know that’s not what the markets (read feedlots & slaughterhouses) want, but I’d rather have one of those red and white squatty boys in my freezer than the show ribbon winners of today.

Craig-TX
 

ollie

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If I didn't think I could make improvements I would quit breeding seedstock. I'm not talking about epds.
 
A

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During the 70's, 80's, and part of the 90's it seemed like the general goal of the beef industry was to get as much weaning and/or yearling weight as we could. I guess the majority of cattle producers thought they were really doing good by increasing weaning weights 100 to 200 pounds in one generation by using some gigantic Simmy or Maine bull. These same producers thought that the extra pounds was just extra $ in their pockets. They didn't seem to remember that they lost an extra three calves at birth and that several of the cows didn't rebreed after having trouble calving. Even more so, it never occurred to them how much more grass/hay those big halfblood replacement females were eating compared to their original females.

It finally seems that even SOME of the university "experts" are starting to recognize that it is a whole lot more important to the bottom-line to optimize our beef operations rather than maximize them. It will be difficult to determine just what the correct size cow is for each environment and how much she should milk, but I think we are finally getting closer to finding it out.

I also feel that all these seedstock producers who think their commercial customers want these fancy showring winners rather than functional cattle are fooling themselves. We sell bulls and I have never ever had a commercial producer ask me how well one of our bulls, or even the bull's sire, did at a show. It tells me they don't care. Thank goodness I don't waste my time halter-breaking, clipping, and showing catle.
 

D.R. Cattle

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Kricket":1bw0mjiy said:
During the 70's, 80's, and part of the 90's it seemed like the general goal of the beef industry was to get as much weaning and/or yearling weight as we could. I guess the majority of cattle producers thought they were really doing good by increasing weaning weights 100 to 200 pounds in one generation by using some gigantic Simmy or Maine bull. These same producers thought that the extra pounds was just extra $ in their pockets. They didn't seem to remember that they lost an extra three calves at birth and that several of the cows didn't rebreed after having trouble calving. Even more so, it never occurred to them how much more grass/hay those big halfblood replacement females were eating compared to their original females.

It finally seems that even SOME of the university "experts" are starting to recognize that it is a whole lot more important to the bottom-line to optimize our beef operations rather than maximize them. It will be difficult to determine just what the correct size cow is for each environment and how much she should milk, but I think we are finally getting closer to finding it out.

I also feel that all these seedstock producers who think their commercial customers want these fancy showring winners rather than functional cattle are fooling themselves. We sell bulls and I have never ever had a commercial producer ask me how well one of our bulls, or even the bull's sire, did at a show. It tells me they don't care. Thank goodness I don't waste my time halter-breaking, clipping, and showing catle.

Well put bit of information.
 

dun

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More thoughts on my previous unsolicited opinion.
The "genetic improvement" needs be consistancy in production. If you market on a quality grid, cows that provide calves to the grid that will grade as required. If you market on the yield grid, cows that provide calves that will grade on the yield grid. Yield in my mind is actaully 2 parts. Yield grade needs be 1s or 2s for all calves including the quality grade grid. When I address the yeild grid I'm strictly referring to pounds of red meat. If you market as weaned calves you need muscle score 1-2, frame medium to large and weight.
So no matter how you market you still need pounds, but the real repeatabile (genetic improvement) issue is the muscle score and frame. The calves that will provide those basics will work on whatever type of marketing you do. The pounds of red meat or the high choice/prime is the gilding on the lily.
Just more babbling of an old phart

dun
 

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