1. Audience Qualifier. Must have a minimum of 25 individuals in attendance; highlighting ASA program(s); event must align with ASA goals and programs; ASA personnel must be the focus for at least 30 minutes or 50% of the event.
2. $3,500 in business with ASA (within a fiscal year) per membership; must allow some form of education or program awareness.
3. $2,000 in advertising with ASA Publication. Must be a singular membership/account or a collaborative sale; must allow some form of education or program awareness.
4. $500 "Buy-a-Day"; must allow some form of education or program awareness.
5. State Associations. State associations receive two free days per year for ASA attendance; must allow some form of education or program awareness; one of the two days must be commercially oriented.
International Genetic Solutions (IGS) is an unprecedented collaboration between progressive breed associations fervently committed to enhancing commercial profitability. The collaboration has yielded the world’s largest genetic evaluation of beef cattle with over 17 million animals and 120,000+ genotypes.
In keeping with our commitment to the cattle industry, IGS is pleased to announce the IGS Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT. The new genetic evaluation provides more predictive EPDs, better use of genomics, more accurate accuracy reported with EPDs, all with weekly evaluations. The announcement ushers in a new era in genetic evaluation — an era made possible by a genetic evaluation system dubbed BOLT (Biometric Open Language Tools, owned by Theta Solutions, LLC).
The concept for BOLT started in 2014 as a research endeavor between the American Simmental Association and Drs. Bruce Golden and Dorian Garrick. BOLT is, quite simply, the most revolutionary and powerful genetic evaluation system in existence. Its power allows IGS to leverage genetic evaluation methodology that was once thought to be untenable on large databases — methodology that significantly improves genetic prediction.
In December 2016, IGS published a multi-breed stayability, the industry’s first EPD using BOLT and the first single-step methodology applied to a large beef cattle database. Since that time, the IGS genetic evaluation team has worked toward fully implementing BOLT with an automated system that enables weekly evaluations for an entire suite of EPDs. As of May 5th, 2018, ASA is the first of the IGS partners to publish a full suite of EPDs generated by the IGS Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT. Each IGS partner has complete autonomy to determine the release date that best fits their organization. As such, the release of EPDs by the other IGS partners is likely to be staggered over the next several weeks. As always, we look forward to your questions and comments about what you see.
Here are the notable changes in the evaluation:
Movement of EPDs and reranking. EPDs and indexes will change. These changes will be more dramatic for younger, lower accuracy cattle. The IGS team has tested the changes and proven the new EPDs result in superior predictions of genetic merit.
Shrinking of EPD range. You will notice a reduction in the range of EPDs for most traits. The IGS evaluation team tested the statistical veracity of the reduction and it has proven to be in line with expectations based on the genetic variation in the population.
Improved use of genomics. With the switch to the BOLT software, IGS will use single-step genomic evaluation on all EPDs. Single-step uses DNA markers, pedigree information, and phenotypic data simultaneously in the prediction of EPDs. Previously, molecular breeding values (MBVs) were calculated from the genomic information and those MBVs were blended in a separate procedure into the EPD predictions. The single-step method squeezes more information from the DNA markers than the previous approach allowed. Additionally, with single-step, the genomic information will not only enhance each EPD for the genotyped animals but also will be used in the EPD estimates of relatives.
It is well established that DNA markers vary greatly in their effect on traits — ranging from large to virtually no impact. To leverage this biological fact in a statistically advantageous manner, the BOLT single-step method only uses markers that have a meaningful impact on the traits of interest, while ignoring those that have little to no effect. Research has shown that by using this approach, BOLT reduces statistical “noise” and thereby increases the accuracy of the EPD prediction compared to other single-step methods.
It is important to note, continued collection of phenotypic records remains a vital part of genetic predictions. DNA testing will never replace the need to record and submit phenotypes.
More accurate accuracy. In the previous IGS evaluation platform and all others in existence other than BOLT, the calculation of the accuracy associated with each EPD is achieved through “approximation” methods. It has long been known these methods are a less than optimal approach to the calculation of accuracy — tending to overestimate accuracy. By employing unique computing strategies that leverage both software and hardware efficiencies, BOLT performs what was previously unthinkable — utilizing a sampling methodology to calculate what is essentially true accuracy. Unlike approximated accuracies, BOLT-derived accuracies will result in predicted movements associated with possible change holding true over time. This is not the case with the previous IGS software or any other system currently in existence.
While the IGS evaluation team and partners are excited to release this new chapter in genetic evaluation, the new genetic evaluation system will only realize its true potential if the selection is made using its EPD and index values. Hands down, there is no better (more accurate) way to select for quantitative traits than an EPD. Economic indexes predict net profit by weighing the EPD for economically relevant traits coupled with economic estimates. To compete with other protein sources, it is imperative that the beef industry adopts the best science and technology to make better breeding selection decisions.
Please note, each IGS breed association has the latitude to publish the BOLT generated EPDs when the timing is right for their association.
For more information about the IGS Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT, go to www.internationalgeneticsolutions.com.
News by BIF Sponsor Lisa Bard of Blueprint Media
The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) is celebrating 50 years in 2018. Themed “Elevating the Industry,” the Annual Meeting and Research Symposium are poised not only to celebrate the last 50 years but launch into the next 50.
BIF was officially founded in 1968, but its formation began the previous January during a meeting at the National Western Stock Show. At that time, a group of producers and researchers – spearheaded by Colorado cattle producer, lawyer and performance evaluation advocate Ferry Carpenter, and Frank Baker, the federal Extension livestock specialist in 1967 – met with the goal to move the cattle industry from its historical basis of visual appraisal to one of evaluation based on performance.
Thus began a very powerful and intentional “performance movement” in the cattle industry that continues and thrives today. Fifty years later, the 2018 BIF Annual Meeting and Research Symposium will return to Colorado June 20-23 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Loveland.
Each year, the symposium focuses on research, innovation and education for producers and scientists alike on current issues facing the beef cattle industry “to connect science and industry to improve beef cattle genetics.” BIF’s three-leaf-clover logo symbolizes the link between industry, Extension and research.
In the late ’60s and ’70s when BIF was formed, the cattle industry was experiencing a great deal of change with the influx of Continental breeds and the implementation of artificial insemination and crossbreeding. Many states had Beef Cattle Improvement Associations (BCIA) but no standard procedures or measurements. At the same time, land-grant universities were conducting more research on genetics and how genetic evaluation could improve cattle herds. Germplasm research being conducted at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center would provide incentive and data to create and formulate genetic evaluation. Other data collected by producers and breed associations would add to that.
Creating and utilizing new evaluation methods based on performance versus visual appraisal was not an easy road. The first step was to standardize performance testing, including the terminology, the actual methods of measurement and the education as to what the information meant. Over the years, there were a few growing pains and disagreements, but the common goal prevailed.
Steve Radakovich of Radakovich Cattle Company, Earlham, Iowa, was BIF president in 1983-1984 when BIF was still young and evolving. As a graduate student at Colorado State University in the ’70s under renowned animal geneticist Jim Brinks, Ph.D., Radakovich was encouraged to attend BIF. This early exposure led to his lifelong participation in BIF.
“Back then we were a bit of a divided camp. We had one group who were the ‘weigh and pray’ folks,” Radakovich says. “They would stand by the scales and pray that the animal weighed more than he did the time before. Then there was the systems group, which I was a part of, who asked questions such as, ‘Is bigger really better?’
“The weigh and pray guys thought that the systems guys were nuts and these two approaches led to some pretty good arguments.”
At that time, some were leaning heavily toward advancing methodology and figuring out how to standardize data collection and utilization, which then led to discussion about the direction of the seedstock industry. During this critical time in the industry, BIF facilitated this direction through the exchange of ideas.
Willie Altenburg, owner of Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch just north of Fort Collins, Colo., and breeder of Simmental and Angus seedstock for more than 40 years, was BIF president in 1999-2000. His recollection of the early days was that BIF “was very small with not very high attendance. In some ways that was positive because you make a lot of progress, given small committee meetings.
“There were times when maybe six people were voting and making decisions on things like formulas and direction, and people like me would sit back in awe in those small meetings and watch those great minds at work.”
Once BIF began to grow and reach a larger audience, in part due to the availability of the presentations and proceedings online, BIF exploded, with attendance now more than 500 people and sometimes as large as 700. It not only affects meeting attendees but also reaches a global audience who access online information after the meetings.
“BIF has always been the place where performance cattlemen gather and philosophize about performance and genetic issues,” Altenburg says. “Over the years, the contributions of BIF to the performance cattle industry have been industry leading. BIF gave the concepts, research and performance philosophy a place to launch and grow, and other countries still look to the United States for performance testing and evaluation.”
Angus and Braunvieh breeder Steve Whitmire of Ridgefield Farms in North Carolina served as BIF president in 2013-2014. He originally became involved in BIF to get as close as possible to the cutting edge of the beef industry – and is why he continues to be involved.
“Because BIF is the one organization that bridges across all breeds and academic institutions, it helps focus limited research dollars into the most promising areas,” Whitmire says. “The early pioneers set aside their breed priorities and personal egos and focused on what was best for the industry.”
Mark Enns, Ph.D., professor of animal breeding and genetics at Colorado State University and organizer of the 2018 BIF Symposium, also got his first exposure to BIF as a graduate student in the ’80s.“BIF helped create the unified vision for genetic improvement throughout the beef industry and established common ground for all the breed associations and all the cooperative breed improvement groups to work under,” Enns says. “We cannot discount the brilliant minds who came up with the idea for BIF and recognized the need for it.”
Throughout the years, BIF has made significant contributions to the beef industry, particularly the seedstock sector. “BIF has allowed the smaller, family seedstock producer to compete on the same playing field with the larger seedstock producer,” Radakovich says. “BIF standardized evaluation so that the smaller operators could utilize the methodology, could pursue an objective selection process and could compete with larger operations. Without the standard methodology, they would not have access to those tools.”
Matt Spangler, Ph.D., associate professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says he believes that “the work of the initial founders of BIF created the platform that we know today as National Cattle Evaluation. Without these efforts, estimation of the genetic merit of animals as parents would have been delayed and would look substantially different today.”
Current BIF President Donnell Brown, R.A. Brown Ranch, Throckmorton, Texas, remembers his first BIF meeting. “BIF was the first cattle meeting I went to after I graduated from college,” Brown says. “I was able to talk with the scientists whose research I had studied and talk to the breeders whose catalogs I had been pouring through. They were the leaders in the beef industry. It was inspirational.
“The seedstock producers weren’t in sales mode and we weren’t at a breed association meeting where politics were involved. It was just a meeting about the facts and how we would use the resources we had to more efficiently and effectively raise better beef. BIF is still about that.”
Others believe that BIF’s greatest contributions have been the development of expected progeny difference (EPD) standards and technology; advancing the use of new, more accurate selection tools and providing a forum for the industry and scientific communities to exchange ideas.
Today’s challenges and beyond
Fifty years later, genetic evaluation has progressed to genomically enhanced EPDs, across-breed evaluations, evaluation indexes and EDPs on a huge array of traits. Today’s cattle industry is also faced with a great many issues including animal welfare, the environment, diet and health, and food safety, all of which can be affected by genetics in some part.
According to Radakovich, genetics can have a big effect on issues for the future, particularly in adapting cattle to different climates and environments all over the world as well as in the United States. Some are studying the grazing habits of different biological types of cattle, which appear to have the same heritability as weaning weight.
“We could be breeding cattle in the future that are hill climbers and will graze hillsides versus riparian areas because that is their genetic predisposition,” Radakovich says. “This is where BIF fits in with issues such as animal welfare, animal behavior, etc., especially with genomics. If we can isolate the gene that determines grazing habits, then it will have a big impact.”
According to Enns, BIF will help guide the industry in how we use, validate and verify the rapidly evolving genomic pipeline and put these new traits to use. Regional evaluation will be a big thing in the future, including the development of regional EPDs and development of specialized adaptability traits. Scientific attention to these traits has been coming for the past five to 10 years and is now becoming more important for regions of the world where climate, adaptability, disease tolerance and feed efficiency are big issues.
“Genetic evaluation may help us balance the competing needs of global beef production with sustainability and conservation,” Enns says. “The United States is a first-world country and our needs are different than those in third-world countries who are simply concerned with finding a protein product to eat. Understanding these competing visions and how genetic tools can be used to address these visions is important.”
Radakovich agrees. “The population increase of today and tomorrow poses a great threat to resources and, as beef producers, we have to figure out how we can remain sustainable under this pressure that gets worse and worse all the time,” he says. “We must be adaptable with fewer and fewer resources. Our big advantage is that cattle are ruminants and can consume feedstuffs that can’t be consumed and converted by other protein sources.”
Genomics can be comparable to the computer age with gene mapping and epigenetics as the next cutting-edge technologies. Genomics and genetic advancements will also allow commercial producers to concentrate on other issues.
“If a commercial operation is doing well genetically, then they can move on to address some of the larger, industry concerns such as environmental issues, food safety, and animal welfare. A good manager can only handle a few topics at a time, and if their genetics are solid, then they can worry about the other concerns,” Radakovich says.
While many, including Whitmire, believe that BIF’s greatest contribution was the development of EPD standards and technology, the future is wide open. “I have no doubt that the genetic tools for evaluation will become infinitely more accurate and widely used in the coming decades, and the industry will profit from this,” Whitmire says. “BIF will help recognize the long-term issues that face the cattle and beef industry and will focus resources to solve those problems.”
Spangler has a broader view. “Genetic evaluation will change such that ‘seedstock’ will drift further and further away from ‘purebred,’” Spangler says. “The data used to inform genetic merit will be weighted more heavily towards commercial-level data. The entities participating in data generation for genetic evaluation and seedstock production will change such that there is more alignment between the end-product and germplasm at the nucleus level. The general nature of breed associations, and their role will change. I’m not sure if these changes occur in 10 or 50 years, but they will occur.”
Elevating the industry
The 2018 50th Anniversary BIF Symposium promises to address all this and more.
“BIF is the one meeting where you get the interaction of the genetic improvement leaders in both industry and academia,” Enns says. “If what we are developing in science is not able to be translated to the industry, then we are wasting our time. There has always been this free-flow conversation of constructive criticism for the betterment of genetic improvement. This meeting is where the appropriate application of science is developed by discussions of the people using the science and the people developing it.”
BIF Vice President Lee Leachman, Leachman Cattle of Colorado, Wellington, Colo., agrees. “This is the meeting where practice and theory meet and the learning is going both ways. If we really could get into the nuts and bolts of the history of BIF, we would likely find that most of the innovations sprang from the BIF meetings and the discussions there. If you want to stretch your imagination, but do so at a level that can be put into practice, this is the place to do that,” Leachman says.
For 2018, the first day is dedicated to what the future of North American beef production looks like. The speakers, breakout session and wrap-up will evaluate the future from a variety of viewpoints, including beef quality, sustainability, efficiency and traits not yet considered.
The second day is about data – how to collect it, who will own it and how it’s used. How can we better leverage all the data in an internet-permeated society? This year’s program is also about helping the industry look at the possible/probable issues that will need to be addressed over the next 50 years.
The meeting also includes a Young Producer’s Symposium, an evening at the CSU Stadium Club, a Friday dinner out sponsored by Leachman Cattle of Colorado and Zinpro, and area tours on Saturday.
The 2018 BIF Research Symposium and Convention is hosted by the CSU Department of Animal Sciences, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Livestock Association. For more information, a full schedule and registration information, visit beefimprovement.org.
Would you like to get paid to use some of the most promising herd sire prospects in the industry? Consider becoming a Carcass Merit Program(CMP) Cooperator
As a Carcass Merit Program cooperator herd, ASA tests a number of young, unproven, high prospect sires through artificial insemination on the cattle within the cooperator’s herd. The purpose of this is to obtain data on the progeny of the sires in order to improve accuracy on the sires EPD’s and adjust the EPD’s according to how the progeny perform. This allows bull owners and genetic companies to identify the high prospect sires and high-quality genetics early on in the sire’s life. Also, by improving the accuracy of the EPD’s, the sires become more predictable and marketable.
Cow Herd DNA Roundup (CHR) is a research project with GeneSeek
Animal breeding is entering a new era. As demonstrated in the pig and dairy industries, gathering and incorporating vast amounts of genomic data into the genetic evaluation accelerates progress. Holsteins, for example, have genotyped 1.6 million cattle and subsequently doubled their genetic improvement rate.
Female genotypes are rare and valuable, especially to predict maternal traits such as stayability and maternal calving ease. Furthermore, genotyping entire herds improves genomic evaluations by reducing bias created when only the best cattle are genotyped. Therefore, gathering massive amounts of genotypes on entire cow herds will significantly improve the genomic predictions and rate of genetic progress.
In August, the ASA Board of Trustees voted to offer a $20 genomic profile (50K including parentage) to members who test their entire cow herd (a $30 savings). Wait, there’s more! Breeders who submit cow weights with either body conditions scores or hip heights receive an additional $5 off per test — an amazing price of $15/sample for something breeders currently pay $50 per test for. This offer is for a limited time only — samples must be submitted to ASA by December 15, 2018. Don’t wait until next December 2018 to join this movement, there is a capped budget for this project so breeders need to submit samples early to ensure these discounts.
International Genetic Solutions Feeder Profit Calculator (FPC)
Total Herd Enrollment (THE) is a cow inventory-based program.
The new genetic evaluation, Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT, offers groundbreaking advances in the prediction of EPDs for the IGS group. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you better understand Multi-breed Single-step.
1. What are the key features of the Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT?
• Faster and more automated system allowing for frequent genetic evaluations.
• Improved use of genomic data.
• Improved methodology for predictions of all traits.
• More accurate accuracy.
• More flexibility to add additional traits or change methods for future improvements.
2. How is ASA’s single-step approach different from blending for genomic evaluation?
The blending approach uses separate steps to calculate genomically enhanced EPDs. This approach requires two steps. The first step is to estimate the effects of DNA markers through a process called “training” or “calibration”. These effects are then used to calculate molecular breeding values (MBVs) on genotyped animals. The MBVs are then combined with traditionally calculated EPDs to enhance the accuracy of the traditionally calculated EPDs. The blending process is only performed on genotyped animals.
Befitting its name, the single-step approach calculates genomically enhanced EPDs in one step — using DNA, pedigree information, and phenotypes simultaneously. As a result, the DNA information not only improves the accuracy of prediction on genotyped animals, but also on the relatives and contemporaries of the genotyped animals. In a sense, all animals are genomically enhanced under the single-step approach.
There are also issues inherent in the blending process that are solved with single-step. Similar to the fact that only reporting phenotypes on a selected group of animals in your herd can lead to less informative (and more biased) EPDs with traditional evaluation, problems can exist with blending as it only involves genotyped animals — and genotyped animals tend to be highly selected. However, because single-step includes information from non-genotyped as well as genotyped animals, the issues are corrected.
3. How is the Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT different than other single-step models used in other genetic evaluations?
It is well established that DNA markers vary greatly in their effect on traits — ranging from a large to no impact. To leverage this biological fact in a statistically advantageous manner, the BOLT single-step method only utilizes markers that have a meaningful impact on the traits of interest, while ignoring those that have little to no effect. By using this approach, BOLT reduces the statistical “noise” and thereby increases the accuracy of prediction. By circumventing the “noise,” BOLT-generated EPDs tend to be more accurate than EPDs generated by organizations that are relegated to using all markers in their single-step evaluation.
4. How many DNA markers are being used?
The Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT uses a subset of weighted markers based on a research study performed by Drs. Mahdi Saatchi and Dorian Garrick, while they were scientists at Iowa State University. Drs. Saatchi and Garrick first used the 50,000 markers to determine a subset of weighted markers that are highly associated with economically relevant traits in beef cattle with consistent effects across breeds. Because the IGS evaluation is for multiple breeds, it is important to remove markers with inconsistent effects or no effects in different breeds.
The Saatchi and Garrick research also found that utilizing genotypes on animals of multiple breeds consistently increased the accuracy of prediction within a particular breed when compared to limiting DNA utilization to only animals of a particular breed.
5. Why are some traits influenced by markers and others are not?
The genetic architectures of various traits are different. Some are controlled by few genes with large effects and some are controlled by many small effects genes. In the current DNA profilers, there are some markers with high correlations with corresponding genes for some traits and low correlations with others. That’s why we see the different DNA added values for different traits. It is hard to change the genetic architecture of a trait. But, new DNA profilers or future technologies may help to improve the value of DNA information for such traits. Furthermore, some maternal traits, like Maternal Calving Ease and Milk, are difficult to predict with genomics because there are so few females genotyped. Increasing the number of cows and heifers genotyped will improve the ability to use genomics to predict maternal traits.
6. Will genomic testing replace the need to submit phenotype records?
No, reporting actual records is critical. The value of genomic predictions increases as the amount of phenotypic information increases. Furthermore, at this point, animals cannot achieve high accuracy with genomic data alone. High accuracy EPDs are only achievable by collecting many phenotypic records on offspring.
7. How do we know predictions via BOLT are better than the previous system (Cornell software)?
The IGS evaluation team has conducted a series of validations to compare the BOLT system to the Cornell system. BOLT-derived EPDs had higher correlations to birth, weaning and yearling weights (0.34, 0.29, and 0.26, respectively) than the Cornell derived EPDs (0.27, 0.19, and 0.20, respectively). Furthermore, there was a larger difference in average progeny performance (birth, weaning, and yearling) of the top 1% compared to the bottom 1% animals in the BOLT derived EPDs compared to the Cornell calculated EPDs. Both validations suggest the BOLT EPDs align better with the actual phenotypes than the Cornell EPDs.
8. Why do some animals have substantial changes in their indexes?
Though the correlations between the previous (Cornell derived) EPDs/indexes and the BOLT derived EPDs/indexes are relatively strong, there will be some animals that happen to move in a consistently favorable or unfavorable direction in a number of EPDs. Because indexes are comprised of several EPDs, even though movement in individual EPDs may be considered small, movement in the same direction across EPDs may yield sizable movements in the index value. This is particularly true for animals that have consistent movement in traits that are drivers of a particular index. Though in a large population like ours we would expect to see several animals with substantial index movement, these animals will be the exception to the rule.
9. How does BOLT improve our calculation of accuracy?
“True” accuracy can be thought of as the gold standard of accuracy. It is statistically unbiased, and therefore the ultimate measure of accuracy. True accuracy is the accuracy resulting from direct calculation. Unfortunately, even with the massively powerful computing capacity now in existence, the direct calculation of accuracy is not possible on datasets the size of ours. Because we cannot calculate accuracy directly, other approaches to accuracy calculation have been developed.
In our Cornell evaluation platform and all others in existence other than BOLT, the calculation of the accuracy associated with each EPD is achieved through “approximation” methods. It has long been known these methods are a very crude approach to the calculation of accuracy — tending to overestimate accuracy.
Another approach to the calculation of accuracy is via “sampling” methodology. Sampling is shown to be a more accurate predictor of accuracy. In fact, the results of this method were reported to be virtually identical to true accuracy. Unfortunately, due to its computationally intense nature, sampling has long been thought an infeasible approach to the calculation of accuracy on large databases.
BOLT, however, has changed the landscape in this area. By employing unique computing strategies that leverage both software and hardware efficiencies, BOLT performs what was previously unthinkable — utilizing a sampling methodology to calculate what is essentially true accuracy.
Because BOLT can calculate true accuracy, we can put more confidence in our accuracy metrics. Put another way, unlike with approximation, we can count on the predicted movements associated with possible change holding true over time. This was not the case with our Cornell system nor any other system in existence.
10. Why do the carcass EPDs generally have an increase in accuracy with BOLT while this is not a case for other traits?
You will notice that while the Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT will generally produce lower accuracies than the Cornell system for growth and calving ease traits, the opposite is true for carcass traits.
One reason behind the differing accuracy outcomes is several years ago ASA staff developed a way to temper inflated accuracies in the Cornell carcass evaluation. Unfortunately, this was not possible for growth traits.
Another reason is that the Cornell system only used the carcass and its corresponding ultrasound trait (e.g., marbling score and IMF) to predict carcass EPDs, while records on several additional correlated traits are leveraged with the BOLT system.
A new feature of the BOLT evaluation is a new approach to the calculation of Carcass Weight EPDs. Due to limitations, our previous Carcass Weight EPDs did not incorporate actual carcass weights. They were predicted through an index of birth, weaning, and yearling weights. Besides using prior growth records (weaning, post weaning), the new approach also includes actual carcass weights. This feature will undoubtedly lead to a more accurate prediction of carcass weight.
11. What can I do to improve the predictions on my herd?
Whole Herd Reporting — If you haven’t already, you should consider enrolling your entire herd with a breed association total herd reporting program as it offers the most complete picture of the genetics involved in your herd.
Proper contemporary groups — It is important for the genetic evaluation that you group, to the best of your ability, animals that were treated uniformly. Proper reporting of contemporary groups ensures better predictions for all.
Take data collection and reporting seriously — Phenotypes are the fuel that drives the genetic evaluation. Take pride in collecting accurate data. If possible, try to collect additional phenotypes like mature cow weight, cow body condition score, feed intake, and carcass data.
Use genomics — DNA testing adds more information to what we know about an animal. The more genotypes we collect, the better we can predict DNA-tested animals in the future. Also, the more relatives genotyped, the better we can predict their relatives in future generations. Therefore, to ensure your bloodlines are well represented in the predictions, genotype your animals.
Visit www.internationalgeneticsolutions.com for more information.
Multi-breed Evaluation Powered by BOLT
Feeder Profit Calculator
Article: Pathway to Profit, Chip Kemp
Total Herd Enrollment
Cow Herd DNA Roundup
Promo Video: In this time of rapid technological advancement, animal breeding is entering a new era. As demonstrated in the pig and dairy industries, gathering and incorporating vast amounts of genomic data into the genetic evaluation accelerates progress.
Video: Turning in the Sample
International Genetics Solutions
Video: Wade Shafer
Video: Understanding the Genetic Model EPDs in Cowboy Language - Wade Shafer, Ph.D.
Video: Cattlemen's Webinar: Fake News- EPDs Don’t Work - Matt Spangler, Ph.D. and Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D.
Video: Cattlemen's Webinar: Understanding Advancements in Beef Cattle Selection Tools - Craig Uden
Video: Cattlemen's Webinar: Utilization of Heterosis in the Beef Value Chain - Bob Weaber, Ph.D.
BROWN BAGGER SERIES
Video: NBCEC hosts "Brown Baggers" covering a variety of beef genetics topics for Extension and collegiate educators, breed associations and industry representatives. View the collection of slide sets here, and feel free to use them at your next producer meeting.
Seedstock and commercial producers share their firsthand experience with ASA’s new and innovative feeder calf value prediction.
By Emme Troendle and Lilly Platts
Historically, the primary limitation of valuing feeder calves has been accurately gauging the profit potential of the largest genetic group within the industry — the crossbred calf. International Genetic Solutions (IGS), a collaborative effort of numerous breed associations, has developed a tool to assist in determining feeder calf value, called the Feeder Profit CalculatorTM (FPC).
“The FPC offers an objective way of describing the genetic merit on a set of calves,” comments John Irvine of Irvine Ranch, owner and manager of a 225-head operation of registered Simmental located outside of Manhattan, Kansas. “To date, there has not been a more accurate way to quantify calf value. Many producers try to do the right things in terms of management such as weaning, and using sound vaccination practices, to prepare calves for the challenges they will face in the feedlot. The FPC offers a common language to bridge communication between those selling and purchasing feeder cattle.”
The FPC incorporates genetic knowledge of mainstream sires, regardless of breed, preconditioning and vaccination information, and weaning management and responsible health programs to evaluate the value on a set of calves. “As this tool gains traction and becomes commonplace for cattle buyers to use, producers will be better rewarded for their efforts, in respect to their investments in better genetics as well as improved efforts in preconditioning calves to offer a better product for the next link in the industry chain,” says Mike Forman, owner and operator of Trinity Farms, a 700-head ranch of registered SimAngusTM cows in Ellensburg, WA.
The finished product is a certificate that highlights the genetic and management predictions on calves along with certain carcass and growth traits. All producer-provided information is highlighted on the official certificate, and an additional page is included, indicating all the genetic information provided. “Our hope is that with a certificate in hand, our customers who are already making investments in quality genetics, making further commitments to provide better health and management of their calves, will be rewarded,” Forman continues.
As seedstock producers, Irvine and Forman share their insight on the FPC:
Q: Why is having this information valuable to those supplying feeder calves?
Forman: FPC is a well-designed third-party validation that helps to provide structured reasoning to establish value relative to the average feeder calf price dependent upon the producer inputs in regard to the genetic selection, health, and management. It helps to reinforce what our position has been for years – producers have three things to sell – genetics, health and the management the cattle are under.
Irvine: The FPC provides a great metric to gauge value for producers that have routinely invested in quality genetics as well as practice good management. Additionally, by scoring their calves, FPC provides the cow-calf producer a benchmark to make measurable progress moving forward, whether it be on the management or genetics side.
Q: What would you say to someone hesitant about using the Feeder Profit Calculator?
Forman: What do you have to lose? It is currently provided at no cost to the producer. I guess if the results happen to not be favorable, they can choose not to share them with their prospective buyers, but most importantly, this is a chance to find out specifically how your calves should be valued in relation to the average.
Information is power and what gets measured can get done – so even if you are not receiving the premium that you think you should, we feel this can be an extremely informative tool to the producer to be sure that they are adding as much value as possible to their calves for the next owner in the process. Buyers are directed to get the cattle that have worked for the lot and/or processor – even if you are not seeing a direct premium today, avoiding reverse discrimination by not knowing if your calves are average or below, will pay dividends in the future as the new generation of buyers look for tools such as this to help them procure the more profitable cattle.
Irvine: In talking with many producers about FPC, everyone I have encountered is excited about the FPC. There are clear, tangible benefits to both those selling and buying calves. Considering the FPC is a free service provided by IGS, this tool provides a great opportunity for both cow-calf producers and feeders.
Q: How can you, as a seedstock provider, use the FPC as a customer service tool?
Forman: Last October, we offered a “Cattlemen's Gathering.” Speakers from all across the country led an active discussion on the most pertinent issues facing the commercial cattle industry today. Focused on the value of genetic selection, the latest advancements in herd health and pre-conditioning protocols, the use and benefits of low-stress livestock handling, financial planning through the use of Cowman Benchmarking Metrics, and the introduction of the IGS Feeder Profit Calculator.
We have seen this to be an educational opportunity for producers to show them the value of adding health and management component since many calves are weaned on a truck.
Irvine: As a seedstock provider what is it we are really selling? First and foremost, a seedstock provider’s customers buy bulls with the expectation that they are investing in the genetic progress of their herd. The FPC offers a way for these producers to document the genetic value of the calves they produce, and to hopefully realize a greater return on their investment in genetics. By helping customers get the calves scored, and promoting the FPC certificates to potential buyers, seedstock producers are endeavoring to enhance their customer’s success and profitability.
Commercial producers, who have used FPC, offered these remarks:
Kent Anderson, A3 Land & Cattle LLC
A3 Land & Cattle, LLC and Plus Bar Inc., is a partnership operation located in the northern edge of the Platte Valley of Central Nebraska. They run 700 cows, 300 are SimAngus seedstock and the remainder are predominantly commercial Angus. The ranch raises seedstock for bull and bred heifer customers, as well as fed cattle (and carcasses) through retained ownership. Darr Feedlot Inc. has partnered since 1990 to custom feed their cattle, with individual animal carcass data collected and submitted to ASA.
“I have long thought that authenticated genetic and health information should be more readily available to help inform feeder cattle price discovery. We were anxious to put the Feeder Profit Calculator to the test by comparing the predicted-to-expressed performance of our retained ownership cattle. If performance and health risks associated with feeder cattle purchase price or decisions to retain ownership can be better mitigated through the Calculator, it’s a win-win for bull customers as well as feeder and fed cattle buyers.
“We experienced a very nice alignment between the predicted and actual feedlot and carcass performance, providing first-hand confidence that the FPC effectively predicts pen-based performance. The Calculator also serves as an informative benchmarking tool to help cow-calf producers understand connections between bull purchase decisions and resulting relative impact across predicted feedlot and carcass traits. In cases where evaluated post-weaning genetic merit may have been neglected, the Calculator also helps inform areas of needed emphasis for future bull buying decisions.”
“The value to commercial bull customers is that the Calculator can be used to help them become better price-makers, as opposed to historically being price-takers at the mercy of the market. It also enables bull customers to more effectively get paid for the investment they’ve made in superior genetics for post-weaning / carcass performance, without necessarily having to assume the risk of retained ownership.”
“Beyond genetics, the Calculator indirectly underscores the economic importance of continuously consulting with your veterinarian to execute the most bullet-proof overall health program possible for the cow and replacement heifer inventory, as well as feeder cattle mates. It’s free and results are confidential — all that’s needed are registration numbers for your current and historic bull battery. As the Spring bull sale season unfolds, ask your seedstock supplier to transfer ownership of bulls to help make it easy to use the Calculator.”
Dennis Ankeny, Ankeny Ranch, Arlington, Washington
Ankeny Ranch, located in western Washington, is a 38-head commercial operation that has been in business since the 1980s. In 2009, Dennis Ankney, owner and manager purchased his first SimAngus bull.
“My objective with cattle, like any other business, is to meet or exceed my customers' needs by producing the best quality product genetically as well as proper preconditioning.
“I attended the Cattlemen's Gathering at Trinity Farms in hope of getting an answer to a key question: How can you quantify genetic value -- I can provide preconditioning data and treatment history, as well as specific feeder calf information. But how can genetic value be quantified so potential buyers can understand how they would benefit when purchasing my calves?
“My question was answered by Chip Kemp, Director of Commercial and Industry Relations for the ASA. The answer is the IGS Feeder Profit Calculator. Over the years I can see what adding great genetics has done for my calves, but I would get a sinking feeling at sale time when my calves sell for the same price or less than the average calf.
“Now, Cattle producers can get a certificate for their calves that quantifies genetics, giving them a distinct advantage over the average calf at sale time. From my perspective, the FPC is the missing tool that gives feedlot owners a better understanding of how genetically superior calves perform in the feedlot, while giving the cattle rancher a feeling of reassurance that feedlot owners have a greater understanding and appreciation of genetics, contributing to the bottom line of both the buyer and seller.”
Enos Grauerholz, Beloit, Kansas
Enos Grauerholz and his sons run a 500-head commercial Simmental operation in north-central Kansas. “John Irvine introduced me to the Feeder Profit Calculator, and their Simmental composite bulls have proven themselves by delivering moderate birth weight and fast growth.
“The Calculator was easy to use and drew positive attention at our last auction. We sold calves after weaning at Farmers and Ranchers Livestock Commission Co, in Salina. The auction displayed our IGS FPC certificate on the video screens during the auction. When the certificate was displayed, it seemed very quiet. This was the first time many people had seen this. The bidding was rapid and at least 8 to 11 dollars/cwt premium--I was pleasantly surprised.
“I know we add value through improved genetics and backgrounding. The calculator is a simple tool to quantify and promote genetic awareness and our management. The Feeder Profit Calculator gives us another leg of credibility and helps prove our investment in genetics.”
Austin Olma, Olma Cattle Company, Tonasket, WA
Olma Cattle Company is a 1,200-head commercial Simmental ranch located in north-central Washington, 20 miles from the Canadian border. The operation weans and backgrounds calves between 700 and 900 pounds, and is focused on retaining moderate framed females that can handle the northern climate and terrain.
“I became familiar with the FPC this last fall. Curiosity was my main driver for using the FPC. I always wanted to know how our cattle stack up, and I wanted to know what our cattle are lacking so I can improve our herd.
“We don’t have the ability to utilize AI, so being able to see how my calves score by calculating all my bulls EPDs, helped me shift the direction of my bull selection.
“The FPC provided more information and confirmed our suspicions. We have really focused on growth, selecting bulls that rank in the top 25% for YW and WW. We didn’t pay a lot of attention to carcass EPDs, with the mindset of we don’t finish our own calves, and there hadn’t been any incentives from our buyers to really focus on carcass traits. We need cattle to perform for us in pounds gained.
“FPC gave me an idea of where my cattle stand as feeders compared to others across the nation. This year when buying bulls I am focusing a little more on carcass EPDs to help improve our future calf crops. FPC takes only a little time. It doesn’t cost you anything -- it is great information that you can use. I’ll keep trying different bull groups I own, also run bulls that I am considering buying to see how they will impact my herd.
“I really enjoy seeing the American Simmental Association putting time and money into creating a tool for commercial ranchers. Technology is only going to become a bigger part of what we do. It’s great to have an association working to help us create the best products for our consumers.”