The End of EPDs?

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angus9259

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Duff and Ohlde aren't really even putting EPDs in their sale books any more. SAV is pretty close to being at the same place. In fact, last couple SAV sale books have cast doubt on the entire thing. Latest Ohlde sale didn't seem to even use the "genomically enhanced" versions so there were a lot of holes in their numbers. It's been obvious that a number of premier herds simply can't keep pace with the numbers part of it - cattle seem great, but their numbers are pretty "bad". Meanwhile, AAA is making a mint off charging our genomic enhancement fees :)
 
I am pretty sure all three of the outfits you listed use epds in their own sire selection. Dismissing epds entirely kind of defeats the purpose of your own breeding program at that point.
 
EPD's should just be a part of selection.
In my opinion their importance is way over inflated.
EPD's are to be used as a comparison tool, but they are often viewed as a stand alone number translated into higher being better in most areas with a few exceptions.
Selecting and breeding just for numbers is a problem if nothing else is considered.
To me there is such a range, curve or whatever anybody wants to call it along with so many variables that I don't pay much attention to EPD's anymore.
I looked at bulls from two different registered programs one Angus and one a Hereford. I'm looking from the prospective of a commercial producer EPD's were never mentioned at either place. I know that both use them, and probably discuss it with anyone that asks
I still prefer visual appraisal of animals to a row of numbers that may or may not mean much.
 
Epds + visual+genomics will make better breeding decisions than just using one or two of the above. More is not always better but using the tools the right way makes the most sense.
 
EBV's are a big part of my bull selections along with the breeding of the top selling bulls at bull sales, I know that these must have certain amount of eye appeal. My bull selection is only one part of my herd improvement, being a self replacing herd I get the opportunity to only select the best heifers to retain (phenotype and growth). Some of the bulls I use may be over represented in those I choose, some under represented. Further down the track after they calve and raise their first calf I decide again whether they stay in the herd.
I like to have the numbers and phenotype and reputation in the bulls I use but I think the greatest improvement is in my culling decisions further down the track.
Now, if you only have one bull for your cows then obviously you have to hope you got a good one as you are stuck with what he produces.

Ken
 
I am pretty sure all three of the outfits you listed use epds in their own sire selection. Dismissing epds entirely kind of defeats the purpose of your own breeding program at that point.
EPD change from rancher to rancher . Raize ur own bulls dont go out and bring something u dont see or want and save ur money and keep what u all ready have .
 
that's one
EPD change from rancher to rancher . Raize ur own bulls dont go out and bring something u dont see or want and save ur money and keep what u all ready have .
that's one idea for sure. You can't screw it up that way. Won't make much progress unless you have some numbers to work with. My thoughts are to find a seedstock supplier that is selecting and managing cattle similar to your operation and take advantage of his selection pressure. I am getting grey hair and am running out of time to do experiments. Lastly you can't raise a bull for nothing. Seven weight steers here are north of $2000. Totally closing a commercial herd genetically isn't in the cards for me but if it trips your trigger go for it.
 
I have a good friend runs several hundred purebred cows, collects all the data, has a grow safe on his place. He told me that over the past twenty years the EPD's have gone up but the weaning weights have stayed the same.
I personally don't use EPD's because it is simply impossible to have an honest system. Even if everybody is doing things right.
 
I have a good friend runs several hundred purebred cows, collects all the data, has a grow safe on his place. He told me that over the past twenty years the EPD's have gone up but the weaning weights have stayed the same.
I personally don't use EPD's because it is simply impossible to have an honest system. Even if everybody is doing things right.
Likely weaning weights haven't changed as environment is the limiting factor. Epd inflation is real as genomics have entered the picture. This seems to bother some but in reality it's just the way the system works.
 
i've gotten tons of sale books this year and all have used EPDs and most even show ONLY the EPDs with no pictures.

If you don't use them you really don't even know what your getting. I still finalize what I want by watching videos of the bulls.
 
I have a good friend runs several hundred purebred cows, collects all the data, has a grow safe on his place. He told me that over the past twenty years the EPD's have gone up but the weaning weights have stayed the same.
I personally don't use EPD's because it is simply impossible to have an honest system. Even if everybody is doing things right.
Same for Angus. EPDs are climbing and the AHIR average data is stagnant. It is a broken system merely used for promotion. Real data and individual data are the highway. Add in observed type. known ancestors and such. EPDs are the guardrails on the outside of the shoulders.

EPDs are good to spot patterns. A nationally known herd just had a sale this week. They showed the EPDs that they selected to show. If you look at the CED EPD on some shown and some not shown, there are a lot of negatives. To me, that is a warning sign.
 
EPDs are the guardrails on the outside of the shoulders.
I like that. If a bull has an epd in the bottom 1% of the breed for maternal calving ease or stayability, I think that deserves at least some consideration before keeping replacements from that line. Even if a person has no confidence in epd's, they are still based off of actual data collected on ancestors and progeny. If the warning lights are flashing, there might be danger ahead.
 
How did we ever manage to breed cattle before EPD's?
I believe most folks had some idea of what worked for them and tried to select for and replicate that.
Today we have a lot of people that live by numbers. A lot of money is to be made from superior numbers. Apparently the solution to correcting problems brought in by single strait selection and or numbers is to come up with more numbers. We now have numbers for feet issues, heifer pregnancy, etc.
I remember years ago with Charolais, the number everybody was concerned with was milk, the higher the better.
A popular bull of the month came out with good numbers across the board including milk. Great outcross pedigree for most folks, The movers and shakers were all in and so everybody else was too.
Bull was heavily used via AI, he sold for a big amount at the time through a dispersal sale. By the time most folks down on the level were getting calves on the ground his milk numbers plummeted to the negatives, and move on nothing more to see here.
Have seen other situations in other breeds to that were on the same scale.
Then there's the argument of using only proven bulls with high accuracy. To me there's still a range and different management and environments are going to get different results.
The EPD's for growth have climbed significantly and like somebody already commented the actual growth of calves has not followed in reality.
It is a marketing tool that is being promoted and it makes money for some, but the reality as far and tangible results is just not there that I can see.
I agree with the statement that EPD's are a guard rail.
BW and CE are traits that can be first recorded and a pattern figured fairly quickly if there is a less than desired issue.
I'll pay more attention to some traits than others.
I have spent literally many hours studying semen catalogs trying to pick bulls to use. Taking each EPD into account and comparing them and trying to weigh out the importance of whatever against something else.
Honestly, my opinion is that is nothing more than fools gold to believe that an obscure number is going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things.
Obviously, if it's a real low number with accuracy of a higher percent then it might be noteworthy, but then again the cattle of the eighties and nineties had tremendous growth, maybe more than todays cattle but the numbers sure don't represent that. The older animals are much lower in terms of many EPD's.
 
.........
I remember years ago with Charolais, the number everybody was concerned with was milk, the higher the better.
A popular bull of the month came out with good numbers across the board including milk. Great outcross pedigree for most folks, The movers and shakers were all in and so everybody else was too.
Bull was heavily used via AI, he sold for a big amount at the time through a dispersal sale. By the time most folks down on the level were getting calves on the ground his milk numbers plummeted to the negatives, and move on nothing more to see here.
................
There are many ways to select cattle. Phenotype, cow family, pedigree, breeder reputation, epd's, ratios, etc. But there are perhaps some pitfalls in all of those.

In the example above, the attitude was "the more milk the better". I think that is where the trouble started. Let's think of a scenario where someone wants more growth in their herd. They go to a seedstock producer to buy a bull and tell the owner "I want to buy the highest weaning weight bull you raised this year". Sort of like "the more milk the better". Guy pays for that bull and turns him out with his cows. He selects his replacement heifers based on the same criteria - highest weaning weights. Since he wants more growth in the herd. Next bull is purchased based on the same criteria. Repeat that for 10 years. What are the results? Probably high growth cattle. But what about the fertility? Udders? Longevity? Structure? Disposition? Profitability? You get the idea. The thought that "the more milk the better" was perhaps more of a poor decision than using an epd. Long term single trait selection will cause a single trait to excel at the detriment of a balanced efficient cow herd.

Epd's are a good tool, but selecting for extreme epd's as your main criteria is perhaps similar to the charolais story above. Maybe the risk is more so in application of a tool than the tool itself. Whether selecting for phenotype or epd. May be easier to have a more moderate balanced trait herd than a herd that is tops in every trait. May be more profitable as well.

Yearling bulls are always going to be somewhat of a risk. They are unproven. A consistent cow herd (breed composition, size, growth, milk, etc) may make it easier to select a bull that works. When there is a bunch of variation in the cow herd, that probably makes selection of a bull more difficult.

Then epd accuracy is low for most animals. Given that, a bull in the top 30 percentile may not be superior to one in the top 70 percentile. But epd's in the bottom 10% for multiple generations back may be a flag.
 
There are many ways to select cattle. Phenotype, cow family, pedigree, breeder reputation, epd's, ratios, etc. But there are perhaps some pitfalls in all of those.

In the example above, the attitude was "the more milk the better". I think that is where the trouble started. Let's think of a scenario where someone wants more growth in their herd. They go to a seedstock producer to buy a bull and tell the owner "I want to buy the highest weaning weight bull you raised this year". Sort of like "the more milk the better". Guy pays for that bull and turns him out with his cows. He selects his replacement heifers based on the same criteria - highest weaning weights. Since he wants more growth in the herd. Next bull is purchased based on the same criteria. Repeat that for 10 years. What are the results? Probably high growth cattle. But what about the fertility? Udders? Longevity? Structure? Disposition? Profitability? You get the idea. The thought that "the more milk the better" was perhaps more of a poor decision than using an epd. Long term single trait selection will cause a single trait to excel at the detriment of a balanced efficient cow herd.

Epd's are a good tool, but selecting for extreme epd's as your main criteria is perhaps similar to the charolais story above. Maybe the risk is more so in application of a tool than the tool itself. Whether selecting for phenotype or epd. May be easier to have a more moderate balanced trait herd than a herd that is tops in every trait. May be more profitable as well.

Yearling bulls are always going to be somewhat of a risk. They are unproven. A consistent cow herd (breed composition, size, growth, milk, etc) may make it easier to select a bull that works. When there is a bunch of variation in the cow herd, that probably makes selection of a bull more difficult.

Then epd accuracy is low for most animals. Given that, a bull in the top 30 percentile may not be superior to one in the top 70 percentile. But epd's in the bottom 10% for multiple generations back may be a flag.
I think I understand and agree with what you said. There are in my opinion no totally foolproof methods or philosophies about breeding cattle in every circumstance.
I remember the days of selecting calving ease bulls based on smooth shoulders, under 100lbs birthweight, unassisted from a heifer etc.
EPD's helped to weed out some guesswork and could be backed up fairly quick for CE.
The example I gave of Charolais was coming in at a time when EPD's were just getting going and Charolais were behind the curve on utilizing them until an opportunity arose. The breed at that time was heavily influenced by the show ring movers and shakers. The champion bloodline cattle were streamlined to just a few lines and heavily sought after. The daughters from those lines didn't milk near enough if at all.
Suddenly milk was important again and people were clamoring for bulls with good milk EPD's. Those numbers we're very fluid, there may be more consistency now.
I've also found that pedigree history is a factor for traits too, but when mating animals with traits at opposite ends of the spectrum I call them fire and ice matings, a lot of variation happens.
An example the Angus bull Bismarck, in my opinion a really good bull. He is a proven calving ease bull but his sire Grid Maker, while a good bull in own right for growth definitely is not a bull you'd want to breed heifers to and expect problem free experience.
We got a Hereford bull sone years ago that was a fire and ice mating. Average EPD's for the bull, he was touted by the sales promoter as a sleep all night calving ease heifer bull because his sire was.
I didn't think he looked like what I would call a heifer bull, but we got in a pinch and didn't have another bull at the time. He had sired average sized calves from cows with no problem so we took a chance and put him with sone heifers. Had to pull over half of the calves and sone were very hard pulls.
He must have taken after his dams side similar but opposite of what Bismarck did.
 
that's one

that's one idea for sure. You can't screw it up that way. Won't make much progress unless you have some numbers to work with. My thoughts are to find a seedstock supplier that is selecting and managing cattle similar to your operation and take advantage of his selection pressure. I am getting grey hair and am running out of time to do experiments. Lastly you can't raise a bull for nothing. Seven weight steers here are north of $2000. Totally closing a commercial herd genetically isn't in the cards for me but if it trips your trigger go for it.
then go back to the breeder and get a bull that fits what your doing then you will up having 7 gen. of claves you cant have no consity just looking is not going help . agin stay in the cow family. by the way im 77yrs.
I think I understand and agree with what you said. There are in my opinion no totally foolproof methods or philosophies about breeding cattle in every circumstance.
I remember the days of selecting calving ease bulls based on smooth shoulders, under 100lbs birthweight, unassisted from a heifer etc.
EPD's helped to weed out some guesswork and could be backed up fairly quick for CE.
The example I gave of Charolais was coming in at a time when EPD's were just getting going and Charolais were behind the curve on utilizing them until an opportunity arose. The breed at that time was heavily influenced by the show ring movers and shakers. The champion bloodline cattle were streamlined to just a few lines and heavily sought after. The daughters from those lines didn't milk near enough if at all.
Suddenly milk was important again and people were clamoring for bulls with good milk EPD's. Those numbers we're very fluid, there may be more consistency now.
I've also found that pedigree history is a factor for traits too, but when mating animals with traits at opposite ends of the spectrum I call them fire and ice matings, a lot of variation happens.
An example the Angus bull Bismarck, in my opinion a really good bull. He is a proven calving ease bull but his sire Grid Maker, while a good bull in own right for growth definitely is not a bull you'd want to breed heifers to and expect problem free experience.
We got a Hereford bull sone years ago that was a fire and ice mating. Average EPD's for the bull, he was touted by the sales promoter as a sleep all night calving ease heifer bull because his sire was.
I didn't think he looked like what I would call a heifer bull, but we got in a pinch and didn't have another bull at the time. He had sired average sized calves from cows with no problem so we took a chance and put him with sone heifers. Had to pull over half of the calves and sone were very hard pulls.
He must have taken after his dams side similar but opposite of what Bismarck did.
to me we did better staying with cow ped you just said it . That proves to me stay in cows ped epds are only good in that herd . epds are different from ranch to ranch , feed , housing , hay has a big deal . epds are only good inside that ranch . breed in that cows ped. to me every breeder put to much on the bull when the cows performace is much better than the bull she will keep ur herd in line u can breed ur won bull and save ur money alot more in breeding than looking at epds .
 
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My point on age is I am running out of time to get the cows I want as I won't live forever. The progress rate I am currently making would not be possible without outside genetics.
 
And I will further add that the bull we are using AI is consistent for the traits I am looking to improve in my herd. Some of what we are doing is unorganized line breeding in a sense but it is working. There is more than one way to skin a cat even if it's bass ackwords.
 
As a commercial breeder we have learned the hard way to not put any merit in an low accuracy EPD. I start looking if they are 60% or above and put merit in them when they are 80% or above. We ask for actual numbers. We use them, visual appraisal and progeny data from the sire and dam's progeny. We also research the pedigree. We have found that the bulls we retain consistently sire our best sire groups. Most of the PB breeders I talk too and do business with are very similar. One stated they aren't even a reliable source for comparison on calves from different pastures. Then the numbers are adjusted. I was involved in the first weighing of calves in our county in the 60's. The only adjustment was a true adjustment for age to 205 days. Now they substract the BW and adjust for age of dam. This creates a manipulated number that is useless to me. Each breeder has to find out what selection criteria works best for them.
We tried one of the CE unproven sires with good numbers. Lost one calf out of 2. Glad no more settled. The best heifer bull we have doesn't have great numbers. His calves are shaped right. We want a bull that is good in all traits but not extreme in either area.
 

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