Protect Your Investment

This time of year, a lot of money is being invested in future herd sires for both Shorthorn breeders and commercial producers. Plenty of preparations go into making the selection of your next bull, and we all enjoy the thrill of winning the bid at auction or striking the deal private treaty. However, the purchase is merely the beginning. You want to protect your investment to maximize his return to your operation, and proper considerations need to be taken to maximize the performance of your newest team member while attempting to minimize your risk.

The first step to minimize your risk in this purchase is making the decision regarding mortality insurance on your new purchase. We all know accidents happen, and it seems that Murphy’s Law (if it can happen, it will) most directly corresponds to the best animals in the herd. I would anticipate that if you brought in a new young bull, he’s probably going to be one of your better prospects, and the small insurance premium (usually 6% of purchase price) is worth the peace of mind it brings that you are financially covered if the new guy does the unthinkable during his first breeding season. If at all possible, freezing a collection of semen to store can be viewed as an ”insurance policy” that the bull’s genetic power isn’t totally lost if he isn’t walking the pastures.

It’s important to remember if you bought a yearling bull, you bought the bovine equivalent of a teenage boy. They are still growing and developing, and they need the nutrition to help them reach peak physical maturity. Getting a bull into the right shape for breeding season might require losing some extra sale day condition before turnout. Going from a sale prep ration to breeding cows out on pasture could be a bit of a shock to the system if you don’t help your bull transition to that exclusively forage diet.

Whatever your usual herd health protocol includes, it’s important to get your bull on the same program as the rest of the herd as soon as you can. Visit with the seller of the bull to see what measures they may have taken for herd health while he was still in their care. Proper vaccinations, pour on, and even fly control can be important to keeping your bull in the best of shape during the summer working months.

Before turnout, check to make sure that the proper DNA work has been done on your new bull. With the ruling passed by the ASA Board of Directors in 2022, any bull that you buy born on or after January 1, 2022 will need to be 100K genomic tested with ASA in order to register his progeny. You can log in to Digital Beef to see if he has been tested by the seller before you take possession. If his EPDs are highlighted in yellow, you are good to go. If not, you need to grab a DNA sample while he is still around the barn and it is handy to get.

In most cases, the seller of the bull will guarantee you that he will pass a breeding soundness exam (BSE). If the bull has not had a BSE at the time you purchase him, it is absolutely vital to have your veterinarian perform one before you turn him out. Catching the problem of an infertile bull is infinitely better when caught before turnout instead of when a chunk of your cows come back open. Most sellers will do everything they can to make the deal right if your new bull does pass a BSE and isn’t deemed fit to breed cows. It’s something you never want to have to discuss, but make sure you and the seller are clear on expectations from both sides if the bull isn’t a breeder. Refunds, sale credits, or replacement bulls are all ways I have seen this handled. Both sides need to be ok with whatever arrangement is struck.

Now that you’ve got him insured, fed right, as healthy as can be, and certified to be fertile, it’s time to put the new guy to work. It’s important to not put too much workload on your young bull in his first breeding season. Sometimes we forget that young bulls aren’t machines. They are being asked to grow, mature, and breed cows all at once, making it a tough stage of life. The old adage is that a young bull can handle one cow per one month of his age. If you are using him in a cleanup situation behind a round of AI, you can probably increase this number a little bit, provided you are getting decent conception rates with artificial insemination.

The perfect recipe for disaster when you bring home a new, young herd bull is to drive him to the pasture, open the gate, and kick him out with 40 cows and wish him well. You take proper care of the other major investments around your farm (tractors, pickups, hay balers). Your bull should be no exception, as he is a major investment in the future of your genetics. Taking the extra steps early on in his development can make the difference between sending your bull to town after one or two breeding seasons or having him properly developed to still walk the pastures at a ripe old age.

written by Matt Woolfolk, ASA Director of Performance Programs

2023 Interns

Welcome to our 2023 American Shorthorn Association Interns. We are looking forward to their arrival in May!

Jana Owen is a junior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she is majoring in Animal Science and minoring in Agricultural Communications. Jana grew up on her family’s Shorthorn farm in southern middle Tennessee. As an alumna of both 4-H and FFA, she enjoyed exhibiting cattle and goats and competing in multiple judging, quiz bowl, speech, and portfolio competitions. At UT, she loves staying plugged in with the agriculture industry through organizations like Block and Bridle, TN Ag Communicators of Tomorrow, Dairy Club, Livestock Judging Team, and Collegiate 4-H & FFA, where she serves as Vice President. Outside of these activities, she enjoys going to church, UT games, concerts, and thrift stores. Jana is passionate about the Shorthorn breed and is ecstatic to learn more about the association this summer!

Kaylee McInvale is currently a senior at Tarleton State University pursuing a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Agricultural economics. Kaylee wants to pursue a master’s and take a path into animal nutrition or reproduction. She is very active on campus as she is a Tarleton State Block and Bridle club member. She serves as the scholarship chair for the Alpha Zeta chapter of the Sigma Alpha Sorority. As well as she is currently serving as a Residential Leader for the Tarleton Housing Department. Kaylee has been raising and showing livestock all her life. She has raised Chianinas, Simmentals, and Herefords. She has helped her parents run cow operations like Circle M Farms and Foster Brothers Farm, registered Simmental and Angus farms. Kaylee served in various positions as a Texas State Junior Director for both Horn and Polled Associations. She was in various royalty roles for the Polled Association. Kaylee served as the 2020-2021 National Hereford Queen, leading her to where she is today. She is currently serving on the National Junior Hereford Board of Directors. She was elected to the board this past summer. Kaylee is looking forward to meeting and working with all of you this summer. Kaylee will be serving as our Junior Activities Intern.

Anna Bonnet is a junior agriculture media and communications major at West Texas A&M University. She is from Karnes City, TX where she grew up helping her family on their Brangus cattle ranch and showing cattle for many years. Throughout college she has had the opportunity to intern for several national livestock shows, growing her passion for the stock show and cattle industries. Anna is very excited to be joining us in Kansas City for the summer as the communications intern.

The New Season

As many of you are entering calving season, this is a good opportunity to remind you of the important information to collect in your calving book. There are some points that are mandatory for recording your Shorthorns into Digital Beef, as well as others that are vital pieces of the puzzle for our genetic predictions in early life traits. Some things will help you with management of the herd going forward from calving season. Below is a breakdown of the items you need to be prepared to take note of this year:

The essentials. These are the items that are required to record any calf into the registry: pedigree (sire and dam), birth date, an individual ID (tattoo), coat color, and whether the calf is horned, polled, or scurred. I know it’s not always easy to determine polled status at such a young age, but you will eventually need that data point when you enter your 2023 calf crop.

Calf measurables. Calving ease score and birth weight are useful pieces to the genetic evaluation puzzle to collect in the calving barn. If you’re unfamiliar with the calving ease scoring system, a 1 designates calves born unassisted, and the numeric score increases with the amount of assistance required to get the calf into the world. These data options are spelled out for you when entering calves into Digital Beef. For birth weight, you have the option to indicate if the weight you are recording was taken by a scale, a birth weight measuring tape, or a visual estimation. Please, do NOT record guesses by visual estimation. A scale or tape are miles more accurate than trying to guess a weight, and poor weights only hurt the quality of our genetic evaluation tools.

Record the entire crop. When you collect those calving ease and birth weights, record them into the record system on every calf in the herd, even if you do not intend to register them. A complete dataset tells the most honest picture of your genetics and does a better job identifying the outstanding and the underwhelming than only recording those you choose to register. This philosophy applies to all collected data points, not just calving ease and birth weight.

Consider the mother. Pre-calving body condition scores might be helpful in planning your nutritional needs postpartum, especially if your cows are coming up thinner than expected. Scoring the udder for teat size and suspension of the udder should be done within the first 24 hours after calving. Both udder traits are on a 1 to 9 scale, with 9s being very small teats and super tight suspensions. There are visuals available online to give you a reference to the scoring chart. The Beef Improvement Federation guidelines are the most helpful drawings I have found for clear definitions of the various scores.

Health records. Any treatments of cow or calf in the early stages of life are important to note. Having this information can come in handy later in the year when making decisions, or to jog your memory when that poor-doing calf at weaning is the same little guy you treated three times early on.

Personal info. If you want to record how much sleep you lost doing nighttime checks on your maternity ward, that’s up to you. While this data can’t be input into the registry, it might serve as a reminder to the sacrifices we make for our herd.

Best of luck with your calving season. While we might both be making middle of the night checks, wait until the sun rises to call and chat, just in case it’s the one night that all is calm out in the barn, and we can catch a few extra minutes of sleep.

written by: Matt Woolfolk, ASA Director of Performance Programs

150th Anniversary Podcast

As characters go, Montie Soules has had a highly interesting career before taking over the helm of the American Shorthorn Association, which celebrates its 150 years this year. Along with Dr. Bob, who has written a great book on the subject, we take a look at the success of the modern breed on both sides of the Atlantic before the celebrations are wrapped up at the Louisville livestock show shortly. With wise words like ‘ we’ve done everything in this country to try and ruin the Shorthorn cow, but I’m telling ya, it can’t be done!’ Montie certainly makes for an entertaining listen.

Click here to listen to the 150th Anniversary Podcast.

Evaluating Accuracy

written by Matt Woolfolk, ASA Director of Performance Programs

As seedstock producers, we talk plenty about EPDs, but less often to we get into discussion about the accompanying piece to each EPD: its accuracy value. By book definition, accuracy of an EPD is the relationship between estimated breeding value of the animal (the published EPD) and the “true” breeding value of the animal. The accuracy of an EPD is calculated simultaneously with the EPDs during the weekly IGS runs. Accuracy values range from 0.00 to 1.00. Each accuracy value also has an associated possible change value for each trait. Think of this possible change value like a standard deviation. The possible change values demonstrate how wide our variation can be for an animal at that accuracy level. You may not realize it, but you have seen this number before in Digital Beef. It is labeled as the “+/- Chg” directly below the EPD. Selection indexes do not have accuracy values, as they are a combination of multiple EPDs in a formula. The methodology used for calculating accuracy on a single EPD does not fit for selection indexes.

The best visualization of this concept is by looking at a bell curve for various accuracy levels. “The curve” may have helped some of you pass college, and now it will help you visualize what the accuracy of an EPD is telling us. On these curves, the center number of the curve is the example animal’s weaning weight EPD (equal to 50 in all our scenarios). With that as our estimated breeding value for the animal, each curve will demonstrate various levels of accuracy (0.20, 0.40, 0.60, and 0.80). When you look at a bell curve with standard deviations, approximately 69% of the area of the curve is within one standard deviation of the mean (middle), and 95% is within 2 standard deviations of the mean. Our WW EPD is the mean, and our possible change values are our standard deviations.

For an animal with a WW EPD accuracy of 0.20, you’re likely looking at a young calf with maybe a weaning weight turned in on himself and no genomics. The possible change value at this 0.20 accuracy level is +/- 13. That means that we’re confident his true genetic value for weaning weight is between 37 and 63, and we’re almost certain that it is between 24 and 76.

Let’s say we get genomically enhanced EPDs on the calf and accuracy improves to a 0.40. Then, our ranges shrink to one standard deviation being 40 to 60, and that we’re 95% confident that our breeding value is between 30 and 70. Yes, that’s still a good bit of variation, but we are drawing the window in closer. This is where genomic enhanced EPDs on young cattle show their value.

Now we take this same bull and he has a couple calf crops with weaning data turned in on them to the point that his accuracy rises to 0.60. With our change value dropping to 7, we now are largely confident his breeding value is between 43 and 57. At this point, we’ve shrunk the window to the point we should feel like we have a good indication of how this bull breeds.

Finally, the bull becomes popular and is used via AI in several herds for a few years. His WW EPD accuracy climbs to 0.80. With a change value of 3 at this accuracy level, we’re now confident his true breeding value is between 47 and 53, while being almost certain his true value is between 44 and 56.

From this exercise, you can see that the key to increasing accuracy in EPDs is data: individual, genomic, and progeny data. With our move to IGS and the BOLT genetic evaluation system four years ago, the calculation of accuracies has become more precise due to increased computing power that wasn’t available in the early days of EPD calculations. Today’s accuracy values are lower than what we saw 10 years ago, but the experts in the field assure us that they have more faith in current accuracy arithmetic compared to previous models.

Studying accuracy of EPDs is almost as important as studying the EPD values themselves, as this exercise shows that not all EPD of equal value are truly created equal. Even with the challenges associated with lower accuracy values, EPDs are still our best available statistical tool for genetic selection. It’s important to keep in mind that like any tool for any job, they have their limitations and only work when properly utilized.

Shorthorns Around the World

written by Montie Soules, Executive Secretary/CEO

As summer draws to a close, it seems more is going on this year with the Shorthorn family than in years past. Relief from the Covid-19 pandemic is one reason. Our folks are moving on with their lives and not letting daily lives be influenced by the anxieties of the past couple of years, resulting in more functions returning to normal, like county and state fairs, along with other Shorthorn events. The Shorthorn breed continues to prosper as breeders get back in the saddle.

One major function I attended this summer was the Shorthorn World Conference in the United Kingdom. This was one of the more successful World Conferences I have attended. It was very well planned and provided an interesting venue for activities. The theme for the 2022 Conference was celebrating 200 years of the Coates Herdbook. We spent a considerable amount of time in the region where the Shorthorn breed was founded over 200 years ago. The history of our breed and the passion of the breeders in that region make it very special. I mentioned in last month’s article the similarities of the issues we all share as Shorthorn breeders regardless of the country, which rang true this year. We spent a full day listening to speakers the UK Shorthorn Beef and Dairy Associations brought in. The main topics could have been right here in the USA.

One of the main concerns in the UK is greenhouse gases and how agriculture affects the environment. Much research is taking place on different kinds of feedstuffs and how they affect the methane gas from ruminants. It was interesting listening to the experts and breeders on this subject. I believe we can learn something from their advanced research. This was not only coming from the UK; other countries like Australia have the same issues. I feel they are further advanced in this area than we are here in the US. They are addressing this subject to satisfy the consumer. In the UK Shorthorn Beef has a branded program with a grocery chain like Whole Food Market stores. Their representative spoke of customers wanting to know more about the food they eat. This is so familiar with what is happening with consumers in the USA. It is easy to push aside these issues as they have not affected our market yet, but the light bulb should come on here in our country. We, as producers, should get ready for some dramatic market changes for our product – it is already happening in other locations around the world. Our ASA Shorthorn Beef locally raised is a good place to start.

I challenge all Shorthorn breeders to write your stories about your operation and/or family activity in the Shorthorn breed. Put a small, classified ad in your local papers about offering freezer meat from Shorthorn cattle raised in your family operation. It will make a difference in the years to come. This type of promotion is inexpensive and will present Shorthorn as an ideal option for the consumer and for the persons looking to get into the business of purebred cattle.

Another area of importance at the Conference in the UK was genomics. The importance of getting more data and genomic information on the cattle population. The dairy boys have proven this with their tenfold advancement in milk production using genomically enhanced EPDs. They even brought a speaker from the US to the UK for this subject. The conversation of getting a global data bank for Shorthorn cattle to take advantage of data from a worldwide view was also mentioned. Something like this would be a game changer.

I strongly recommend planning to attend the next Shorthorn World Conference in three years which will be hosted by Canada. The USA will be hosting the World Conference in 6 years, so start thinking about being involved in that process. Please look on page 26 for some photos taken at the Conference.

I want to bring attention to the ending of the 150th Anniversary Celebration for the American Shorthorn Association. We are planning a big finale at the North American Show in Louisville this year. On Saturday night we will be hosting a special 150th celebration festivity for all to attend. We hope to have past Builders of the Breed and past presidents of the ASA attend. This will be held on Saturday evening at the Crowne Plaza Hotel after the Deck the Stalls Fundraiser Auction in the barn. There will be hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and lots of Shorthorn fellowship. Make plans to attend as we end a fantastic year of celebrating the ASA as the oldest Beef Breed in the US!

Busy Summer Everywhere

written by Montie D. Soules, Executive Secretary/CEO of ASA in the August 2022 issue of Shorthorn Country

Thank you to the Shorthorn Breeders who made the 2022 150th Herd Book issue a huge success! I also want to say a big thank you to the Shorthorn Country staff, especially Amy Sampson, who single handily put the issue together. This is one of our largest Herd Book issues in some time and it is very well done. I think this July 2022 Herd Book issue will be competitive in the Livestock Publications Council breed competitions for the special issue division. Congratulations to all in making the Shorthorn breed look great!

This issue of Shorthorn Country features the results of the National Junior Shorthorn Show and Youth Conference held in June at the American Royal in Kansas City, MO. Boy, it was some show. We had a record number of cattle exhibited, over 750 head were lead through the ring in Kansas City during a week of fun, festivities, and competition. More than 450 exhibitors participated in the activities of the week. There is so much happening at this event that it is just impossible to keep up with it all: numerous contests such as Speech, Quiz Bowl, Team Sales, Team Fitting, Photography, Graphic Design, Arts & Crafts, Written Cattle Knowledge Tests, Career Development, Poster, Beef Cook-off, and Showmanship. This event is way more than showing cattle, but we always grade the event by the number of cattle shown. I believe it is about the juniors and their families. They are the show and they become the customer for the event. Without them, there is no event. These families receive well over 1,000 awards during the week for their competition in all these activities. There was also the election of new Junior Board Members and the retirement of those who have served their terms. Folks, these young people are the future leaders in our breed, agriculture, and the great ole USA. I have the privilege of watching these young people grow from juniors into special young adults. The National Junior Shorthorn Show and Youth Conference has been voted the most enjoyable for the last two years. After being part of this and watching it throughout the week my hat is off to Shelby Diehm, Director of Junior Activities and all the ASA staff, and the AJSA Board members who made this year’s event, maybe the best ever! I think you will agree when you see the coverage of this event in this issue of the Shorthorn Country.

Your ASA Board of Directors and staff met for three days after the Junior National for a strategic planning session under the leadership of Dr. Tom Field and Bryce Schumann. Many topics were discussed and graded for importance. The ASA Board rolled up their sleeves and went to work looking at the future of the ASA. This group is as dedicated as any Board of Directors you could have. They worked in harmony to find answers and possible solutions for you, the membership and breeders, of this great breed of cattle. The results of this activity will be shared in the near future giving a solid direction for the future of our breed. There is still work to be done as staff and board members work together to provide a solid future for the Shorthorn Breed.

As I write this month’s article, I am preparing for a trip to England and Scotland for the World Shorthorn Conference. This is where leaders from around the world share knowledge and ideas about the Shorthorn breed and its breeders. We will have the honor to attend the Great Yorkshire Show and possibly be greeted by a member of the royal family. Not sure I know how to act in this situation other than just be me. While respecting the ways of our neighbors across the pond, we will tour areas where the Shorthorn breed was founded. These conferences/tours are always interesting as we find that most Shorthorn breeders have similar issues around the world.
It has been a busy summer to this point. That is good – it means things are happening in the Shorthorn breed.

The message I want to leave you with is the power of our breeds’ family atmosphere. Other breeds admire this comradery and respect that this is shared among Shorthorn members as “The Family Friendly Breed”. This carries over into many aspects of the success of the breed. It was a topic of conversation during the ASA Board’s strategic planning session. It is a way of life and we need to make it a priority to keep it a part of our breed. Believe me, it is there at every level, junior shows, open shows, commercial acceptance, and the purebred ranks. Yes, we have good cattle designed for the industry, but we have even greater people with a family friendly atmosphere. That’s the difference!

“Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them out and enjoy their riches.” Wanda Hope Carter