Using New Technology for Higher Value Calf Crops

Published on Tue, 05/07/2019 - 10:45am

 Using New Technology for Higher Value Calf Crops

 Written by Craig Bieber • Bieber Red Angus Ranch - Leola, SD

 This time of year, I often get questions about different sires as cattlemen work to decide which genetics will ensure a higher value in their future calf crop.

Everyone’s goals are different, but one question that always stumps me is this: What was herdbull X’s birth weight?  Let’s be clear, most of these sires have more than 200 progeny recorded with the association.  By the time we have that many progeny, the sire’s birth weight is irrelevant.  The tools we have available today, like genomically enhanced EPDs and single step incorporation of genomic data, have shown that if the data indicates he is a calving ease bull, his actual birth weight is of little to no value.  I believe, and the data clearly shows, that by using raw performance data a breeder does not get to his breeding objective as quickly.  We can have a discussion about EPDs and their accuracy, but many projects like Red Angus LiveWired and Gardiners Southern Carcass Improvement Project have proven that the data works when used with clear breeding objectives.
There are issues with using raw performance data in your selection criteria.  Ultimately, we can’t remove the environment from raw data, but EPDs do that very well.  Our industry often struggles to use new data even when the evidence indicates it works.  Oftentimes we don’t take the time to understand these new tools but instead revert to, ‘that’s how Dad/Grandpa did it.’ We fall in love with that idea, but I think our parents were looking to improve their position and often used improved practices to advance their goals.  I think if we had the ability to go talk to them in their prime, they would tell us they used the information they had to make the best decision they could.  Should we really fall in love with the romance of how Dad/Grandpa used to do it, or should we be looking to make sound decisions?  I know what my Dad and Grandpa would want me to do, and that’s to use the tools we have to make my own path.