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Exploring Genetic Defects in Beef Cattle

February 26, 2021 Genetic Conditions ASA
By Lilly Platts | Dr. David Steffen has dedicated his career in veterinary medicine to studying and identifying genetic conditions in beef cattle. His work has been instrumental in identifying the majority of the defects ASA tracks. Genetic conditions emerged…

Focusing on Costs

February 26, 2021 Industry News ASA
By Nevil Speer, Ph.D., MBA | Cow-calf producers who manage costs are far better positioned to navigate uncertainty My previous column ended with the following observation, “…the new year represents an opportune time to assess the how-and-why of decision…

Modern Seedstock Marketing Must be Better

By Lane Giess     |      

If we take a trip down memory lane, we can remember a day when marketing seedstock could be described as simple compared to today. We would mail a sale catalog with the date and time of our auction, inside would have general information about our breeding program and then we would list the lots of animals for sale. Each lot's information would contain a couple of key pieces of information; birthdate, pedigree, adjusted weights, and ratios among other things. We used this information as the premise for describing genetic value among our offering. And at the time all of the separate sources of information were important and useful tools. 

You could even say before modern genetic evaluations, ratios and adjusted weights were the best tools available to describe genetic merit. And before those, pedigree knowledge and visual performance appraisal were the best tools available to determine the genetic merit of individual animals. No doubt, our understanding of genetic merit has advanced since these times. 

As I page through various current sale catalogs, I have to ask the question, are they any more clear, or any easier to decipher than what’s been printed in years past? My answer would be no, and in fact, I might even argue they are more confusing now than ever before and not for the reason you might think. 

Modern sale catalogs that still print adjusted weights, ratios, and raw ultrasound scan results are full of contradicting pieces of information. Why? Because we know these observations describe more the performance of the animal itself and less what that parent animal may pass on to its progeny. 

Ratios, adjusted weights, and raw-scan data are indications of merit from an observed phenotype (BW, WW, Marbling, etc.). However, as all animal breeders know, an animal’s phenotype is influenced by multiple factors - including how they were managed. Can future progeny inherit good management? No.

Then why do ratios, adjusted weights, and raw data still permeate most sale catalogs printed today?

As a seedstock breeder myself, I get it. The success of every seedstock operation is dependent on two things; 1) a sound and reliable breeding program designed to improve the profitability of our customers, and 2) the ability to market those animals to stay financially sound in our business. 

It’s the responsibility of every seedstock producer to maximize genetic progress and improve the economic profitability of beef production. But in a difficult market and volatile business environment, marketing our livestock is vital to our bottom line. 

We choose to print outdated tools like ratios and weights for inherently selfish reasons and reasons only magnifying our inability to educate on true genetic tools like EPDs.

The bottom line is, EPDs are better indicators for genetic merit than anything else available to seedstock breeders. They are more confusing, yes, but they are much more accurate and effective tools for making genetic improvements for a trait than anything else available. Science is not always understood, but in the case of EPDs, there is no debate among animal breeders and progressive producers. They work!

Modern sale catalogs still print the outdated tools of ratios, actual weights and raw data are only adding to the difficulty of educating commercial cattlemen and are ultimately hurting your bottom line by introducing confusion and contradicting information. 

In a world of “the customer is always right”, some are going to demand seeing these pieces of information and for those customers, I’d suggest a separate location to print what they are looking for such as your website or as a supplement sheet rather than printing in a catalog. 

This conversation is one many will disagree with, but as the beef industry is scrutinized and the market becomes more competitive, I think it is clear the direction seedstock breeders must take mandates a change in how animals are marketed and how we educate our consumer. 



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