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

Multiple Paths, Same Endpoint

written by Matt Woolfolk, ASA director of performance programs

When you’re setting your destination into your Google Maps on a road trip, often you will be given multiple routes to get to the destination. Options include shortest travel time, least miles, or avoiding the toll roads and back roads. Even if you choose to ignore the guidance, it can be a helpful tool when heading to a new place. Much like directions to your destination, there are often several ways to land at the same endpoint when we are calculating selection indexes. To dive deeper into this subject matter, we’re going to make a U turn and go back to the basics of selection indexes to get a better grasp of the harder stuff later in the journey.

Selection indexes are essentially a complex algebraic equation with weights of importance placed on every EPD included in the index. These indexes are based on economic factors in certain production scenarios; the weightings of an EPD trait are not arbitrary. An index is usually expressed in a unit of dollars. Comparing two bulls for an index, the higher figure is projected to produce more revenue for the operation when he is used in a breeding scenario like the one the index is designed for. Situations that indexes are constructed for usually center around a commercial cow herd with a specific end point or marketing goal (replacement females, feeder steers, retained ownership, etc.). In a seedstock situation, these indexes find value in helping the genetic provider (YOU) produce cattle better suited for the commercial customers in those production scenarios.

American Shorthorn Association produces a trio of indexes for members to use in their breeding programs. The $Calving Ease index ($CEZ) is designed to identify genetics that excel in eliminating calving difficulty in heifers. Our $Feedlot index ($F) is constructed to help commercial producers find the bulls that will best work for their herds in a strictly terminal operation, focusing on growth and carcass quality. Finally, $British Maternal ($BMI) aims to identify the Shorthorns that are best suited for commercial breeders in a situation where they are retaining their own replacement females.

Much like developing a ration to feed your calves, there are multiple ways to get to the same outcome when using selection index technology in your program. While the ingredients may all be the same, the proportions and amounts can vary, all while still getting your cattle to the desired endpoint. I want to take the time to dive further into this concept, so below are some examples of how not all $BMI and $F are created equally. We’ll study how these bulls’ genetic profiles don’t necessarily look the same but can produce the same outcome from a revenue-generating perspective or index value.

$British Maternal (Image 1)

There are several ways to arrive at almost equal $BMI when you study these three sires. Bull A excels in calving ease, solid carcass, and high milk, while also being low enough growth to not be penalized for (likely) larger mature sized cows. Bull B’s value in a $BMI scenario is largely in siring calves that will bring the most value at weaning through his high growth genetics. And Bull C is a combination bull that has good growth data, high milk, and solid calving ease. Obviously, these bulls take three very different paths to the same destination. With a more complex index like $BMI, there’s going to be multiple paths to the same answer. Remember, while $BMI does focus on aiding the rancher that is keeping his own females, it does not abandon the steer mates to his heifers. That is why you see growth and carcass traits involved in $BMI. A bull’s peak value may be in making top-class daughters with minimal regard to her brothers, or he may sire good females while siring killer feeder calves. Both possibilities are viable options to generate similar financial returns to the operation.

$Feedlot (image 2)

This index is designed to focus on terminal marketing, so it’s logical that growth is a driver of $Feedlot. With Bull 1, you get good growth with above average carcass values, creating value all the way through. Bull 2 is unique that his high CED is a bonus to him (CED factors in because we must have live calves to get them to grow in the feed yard). Growth is good on that bull, and carcass is acceptable. The growth data on Bull 3 are his selling point, adding pounds (and dollars) to a carcass that may not necessarily excel for quality on the grid. For cattle to rank highly in the $Feedlot metric, higher growth EPDs are important. Being elite for growth and carcass isn’t necessary, but if your bull is weaker in one area, he better be stronger in the other to be a top end $F bull.

Our final chart (on the next page) brings all six bulls used in this article together to compare their $BMI and $F values. You’ll notice that the high $BMI bulls don’t all translate to high $F cattle, while the high $F cattle look like stronger $BMI cattle as well. That’s likely due to the growth component factored into $BMI for the steer mates.

One important takeaway from this exercise is the making selections based solely on a selection index can be just as detrimental as making selections based on a single EPD. You may love Bull A’s $BMI, but if your customers have any market for selling or retaining feeder steers, he’s not a good option for fitting that niche. It’s still necessary to study the component traits of an index to make sure the bull you’re looking at is fine-tuned to meet your breeding goals.

Shorthorn Summer

Now that we’ve ‘waved’ goodbye to Junior Nationals, we’re ‘shore’ ready to spend the rest of our Shorthorn summer ‘shell-abrating’

Now that we are past Junior Nationals and everything has been safely and neatly been organized back into the office, we’re ready to hit the pool for our ‘Shorthorn Summer’ (after work of course!)

Showin’ Off the Interns

On our final week before Junior Nationals, enjoy a story from each of our interns on their show experience & favorite memory!

As may of us have, all three of us grew up in the cattle industry- and all three have a uniquely different experience. Growing up in different states heavily influenced this, but being at Shorthorn and preparing for Junior Nationals, thinking about what’s all going to happen- has made us all think of our own showing experiences & we thought we would share!