MRW Memo March 2022: EPDs in our Breeding Program
While calves are hitting the ground here, my mind is already on to the 2023 calf crop and the upcoming breeding season. I’m a firm believer in balanced selection when it comes to data and EPDs, and I don’t normally chase extremes for traits. I like to study my entire group of females, identify where the strengths and weaknesses are, and select either a herd bull or AI sire that best complements those females. While staying out of the ditch for any trait is important, emphasizing everything on the paper isn’t realistic (and contradicts the definition of emphasis). Here are four EPDs that I like to keep at the top of the list when planning our breeding decisions.
- Calving Ease Direct: Whether it’s cows or heifers, I want calves to be born unassisted (as we all do). Knowing that many commercial producers don’t monitor calving time near as closely as we might at our place, calving ease stays important in our herd to keep the customer from having a bad experience with a bull from our operation.
- Weaning weight: With so many commercial producers loading up calves at weaning and taking them to the sale barn, it’s important to bring in bulls that their calves grow early.
- Maternal Index: Personally, and professionally, I’ve dealt with all the British breeds in a heavy capacity. These cattle are meant to make momma cows that work. Most breeds have a selection index that is maternally oriented in their arsenal. In the breeds we work with, it’s our primary focus over other carcass-driven indexes. The maternal component is too vital for us to not heavily consider it when making our next generation.
- Whatever my cows tell me: When studying our females’ genetic predictors, there’s always going to be something that doesn't quite measure up and can be improved. With the Hereford herd, Marbling is currently lower than we would like and is an EPD we’re looking at a bit harder with bull selection for the 2023 crop. We won’t take it to the level of Wagyu-type super prime, but a little improvement would certainly bring more commercial value to our Hereford genetics.
Like I said earlier, I don’t believe that chasing any of these numbers to extremes is the right move. We certainly don’t want extreme growth genetics or extreme marbling or extreme anything in our cow herd. There are too many unintended consequences of chasing any trait/number to the extreme for that philosophy to work efficiently here.
How about you? What are some of the EPDs of importance in your breeding program?