The American Shorthorn Association welcomes Emily Velisek as the new show/membership coordinator & assistant youth activities director.

Growing up in Gaithersburg, Maryland, she is a third-generation Angus breeder. Velisek was heavily involved in her state junior association and in the National Junior Angus Association. She continues to be involved in both the Maryland Angus Women and the American Angus Association. This will give her the ability to help with the junior activities.

Velisek graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural communications and journalism. At KSU Velisek was involved with Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow.

““I am extremely excited to be joining the American Shorthorn Association and come back out to the midwest,” said Velisek. “This job will allow me to continue to pursue my dreams of working in the beef industry and continuing to be involved with a junior association.”

Velisek is coming to us from Gaithersburg Equipment Company as an administrative assistant. This gave her member service experience that will help her will at ASA. She has also been a NJAS Media Member and Livestock Media Intern for the American Royal.

“Her past experience with the beef industry and previous jobs will make her a great addition to the American Shorthorn Association staff,” said Montie D. Soules, Executive Secretary/CEO of ASA. “We look forward to having her on board with us.”

Ways to Stand Out at Junior Nationals





It’s official, only 17 more Days until Junior Nationals….Whoa, where has the time gone?! Most of you are busy getting ready, so we put together all the different ways to “Stand Out” during the Junior National contests. Plus, lots of little tips and reminders to keep in mind!



Arts & Crafts, Photography, Promotional Poster and Graphic Design

  • Attention to detail: You may think that some things may not be noticeable or it looks “good enough” But looking at all of the details to your creative piece is the best way to avoid errors and have an overall impactful piece of work. Most importantly, EDIT EDIT EDIT!
  • Find your creativity: Don’t be afraid to go for something unique or put your own “stamp” on it, judges appreciate originally and authenticity.
  • Put together different options: If your stumped on what to do or can’t decide on just one idea, try them all! Give yourself the opportunity to try different things and see which one really takes you the farthest.
  • Get that 2nd opinion: Have other people go over you work, reach out to professionals to get tips on how you can improve, it can’t hurt!
  • Visual impact: First impressions are everything, when the judges see your piece for the first time you’ll want there to be a positive impact.

Beef Cook-Off

  • Presentation: Don’t wait until the day of to decide on how you will present your meal, put some thought into it and practice!
  • Make a plan: Understand the strengths of each chef on the team, who does what? Instead of everyone all going for it think about the organization, the different jobs/duties on the team. This will definitely make the experience more ‘stress-free’ and a fun experience!
  • Be ready for the Judges: Yikes, get ready for those questions! Be sure to know your recipe forward and backward and all of the ingredients you will be using, don’t leave anything out!

Quiz Bowl

  • Effort: Even though it’s summer break, hit the books and STUDY STUDY STUDY.
  • We can’t tell you the exact questions… but here’s the categories to freshen up on; Nutrition, breeding, anatomy, history, general beef knowledge and facts about the Shorthorn Association.


  • Presentation: Although this is a no-fit showmanship competition, make sure your animal clean and ready to walk in the show ring.
  • Don’t forget about yourself! Be sure to dress in an appropriate and professional manner.
  • Tick Tock: Don’t be late! Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to spare and keep an eye on how fast/slow the judge is moving. You don’t want to get your animal up to early/late. With Keeping timing in mind you’ll be ready for “showtime.”


  • Bulls cannot be shown
  • There’s a peewee competition for Juniors under the age of 5
  • You must use the same animal throughout the competition


Team Salesmanship and Speech

  • Confidence: Judges are impressed by confidence and if you mess up just keep going! Most likely the judges won’t even notice just continue on as if nothing had happened, just remain cool, calm and collected.
  • Eye contact: It’s important to know the difference between “staring someone down” and having the appropriate amount of eye contact. Practice your presentation with a friend or family member and find what works for you.
  • Really selling it: Show your excitement and passion about what you are presenting, make the judge think “Wow! They really knew what they were talking about!” or “They were really interesting to listen to!”


  • The judges will ask questions
  • Dress for Speech Contest: prospectors are school clothes, seniors are semi-formal.


  • Don’t do that!: Make sure you are aware of the inappropriate fitting practices and review what and what is not allowed in The Edge or Exhibitor Folder.
  • Make a plan: Know who is doing what on the team, assign jobs and areas one team member should concentrate on.
  • Set a goal: What can you accomplish is the given amount of time? Make a list of priorities, what is most important? What needs to be accomplished first? Be conscious of you time, only 20 minutes!
  • Keep your fitting area clean and presentable for the judges.


  • Animals may enter the ring with a show halter in the prospector division only.
  • Don’t forget any of your supplies, generators are encouraged to make sure you have enough power.
  • Team members may be from any state as this doesn’t go towards the outstanding State award.


  • Things to know: The contest is scheduled to include 5 classes (12 minutes per class). There will be 10 questions. There will be 3 cattle classes, 1 hog and 1 sheep class when other livestock is available. IF other species aren’t available we will use only cattle classes.
  • Practice any potential questions you may receive from the judges!


Not signed up as an exhibitor for Junior Nationals? But you are a member of the American Junior Shorthorn Association? You can still compete in the contests! Just pay the exhibitor fee and sign up at Junior Nationals!

Or for the kids that are 5 years of age or under there’s still lots of fun activities to participate in! Email to sign up for Shorthorn Sidekicks!

Hope we could help with the preparation for this year’s Junior National contests. If you have any more questions regarding any of the contests or need tips and advice feel free to contact us here at the office!





Where the Flight Attendants Learned Their Skills

College is fun! This week we’re sharing all the reasons why we love our Universities and what makes them special. Get the inside scoop on Kansas State University, University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University.

Leah- Kansas State University

Key Points

  • School Mascot: “Willie” the Wildcat
  • Color: Royal Purple
  • Member of the Big 12 Conference

Hey That’s Pretty Cool!

  • K-State was originally founded as an agriculture college.
  • The First Land-Grant University- designated by a State to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.
  • Modern Family star Cameron, played by Eric Stonestreet is a K-State Alum

Things I love about K-State

  • Bill Snyder- He’s old, he’s cool, we love him and it will be a sad day when he leaves us. Why? Because what would K-State be without the legendary coach Snyder?
  • He is the only active football coach who has a Stadium dedicated after him. An even more obscure fact known to mostly locals, is the highway named after him, “Coach Bill Snyder Highway” can be seen as you come into town on Highway 177.
  • Family is the one word I would use to describe K-State. That’s what we are, one big, happy, purple family that sings ‘Alma Mater’ at football games with our arms wrapped around each other, we ‘Hail Synder’ and we all really hate KU.

Things I love about my college/department

  • Clubs- They offer an exciting and interactive way to build contacts and meet some awesome new friends. In the realm of agriculture, the people we meet in college are going to be friends, colleagues and business contacts for the rest of our lives.

My current involvement:

  • Collegiate Cattlemen’s: I especially love traveling to NCBA every year with the club.
  • When traveling with Collegiate Cattlemen’s to NCBA be prepared to have people look at your group and go “WHOA, that’s a lot of purple!”
  • Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow: I love this group of Ag Communicators. Whenever I need creative advice or someone to edit my paper I know my AgCom buddies will be there.
  • ACJ Department: I know mostly everyone in this major, it’s one of the smaller majors in the College of Ag which is awesome because I get to be friends with my classmates and instructors.

Things I love about Manhattan

  • Manhattan is the dictionary definition of a college town, yet has an awesome small-town feel. Manhattan can also be referred to as Manhappiness, Manhappin, or The Hat to many college students, alum or locals.
  • I would consider Manhattan a “Foodie” town and I absolutely love it.


Here are my go-to places:

  • So Long Saloon- They serve specialty burgers and it will be life changing.
  • s. you can’t go to So Long without getting the Chipotle Raspberry & black bean dip, and when I say you have to you HAVE TO.
  • Arrow Coffee- Cute and artsy on the inside. Get the Voldemort, it’s a sweetened coffee drink similar to a frappe and it’s delicious.
  • Varsity Food Truck- Get the mac and cheese grilled cheese. I know, I know, our arteries are clogging just thinking about it but it’s definitely worth it and you get the experience of the late-night food truck.
  • Konza Prairie: Located in the Flint Hills, this offers a beautiful hiking experience. The trails range from 3.8 miles to 13 miles, they also have a pretty cool snapchat filter.

Emma- University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Mascot: “Goldy” the Gopher

Colors: Maroon and Gold

Big-Ten School


  • Popular CFANS Majors: Agricultural Education, Agricultural Communications and Marketing, Agricultural Food Business Management, Animal Science, and Applied Economics.
  • VetFast Program: A fast-track program to Veterinary School to meet the high demand for veterinarians needed for livestock animals.
  • There are over 25 minors to accompany the majors of CFANS.


  • CFANS Specific Clubs include Gopher Dairy Club, Block and Bridle, Gopher Crops and Soils, National Agri-Marketing Association, Agricultural Education Club, and National Grocers Association.
  • The U has a General Livestock Judging Team that runs every other year and a Dairy Judging Team that is ran every year.
  • Considering Greek Life? The U of M has over 60 fraternities and sororities to choose from!
  • Study, Intern, or do research across the globe, the U has a large variety of programs offering all types of experiences.

School Activities:

  • GOPHER GAME DAY- everyone loves a good football especially when played against our most notable rival, the Wisconsin Badgers. In fact, we have the longest continuous rivalry in NCAA Division 1 football.
  • MN Royal- Every spring the student organizations in CFANS spend a week competing against each other in activities such as skits, quiz bowl, scavenger hunts, and showmanship.
  • Minnesota State Fair- St. Paul Campus borders the MN State Fairgrounds. The State Fair runs for 12 days ending on Labor day because of this and the fact that many students work and volunteer at the state fair, the U does not officially start classes until the day after labor day.

Interesting Facts:

  • We have the 6th largest main campus student body in the United States but CFANS is the only college that resides exclusively on the St. Paul campus yet it is only a short bus away from the U’s main campus in Minneapolis.
  • Minnesota has been called “the Silicon Valley of Food” due to the amount of food and agricultural companies that have their headquarters located there:
    • Cargill
    • General Mills
    • Land O’Lakes
    • SuperValu
    • Mosaic
    • CHS
  • What is the best apple in the world? The Honeycrisp Apple. Where was it created? The University of Minnesota- St. Paul Campus.

Emily- Oklahoma State University

The basics

  • School Mascot: Pistol Pete
  • Colors: Americas Brightest Orange
  • Member of the Big 12 Conference

Just some quick fun facts

  • Oklahoma State was founded on Christmas Eve in 1890 as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical college or Oklahoma A&M Tigers ( The inspiration to OSU school colors black and orange)
  • In 1923 ideas were made to change from the tigers to the cowboys and have a mascot called Pistol Pete after cowboy Frank Eaton. In 1958 Pistol Pete became the official mascot for OSU. Original Pistol Pete created the head while working at Disney.
  • Oklahoma State holds “Americas Greatest Homecoming Celebration”

Why I Love My School

  • OSU Football – Because I mean who doesn’t love College Football! OSU Football is one of my favorite Traditions at OSU. My favorite Saturdays are spent in Boone Pickens Cheering on the boys in Orange and Black led by their Fearless Leader and Alumni Mike Gundy. And I mean who doesn’t love a coach with a mullet!
  • The “Orange Pride”- Orange Pride is everywhere, you can see it when you are going to class or even around the Town of Stillwater. America’s Brightest Orange is hard to miss especially game days or Orange Fridays, the spirit just bleeds out of you. Not only do we bleed orange but we have a saying that becomes everyday life.
    • Saying: “Go Pokes becomes a common phrase with everything, whether good or bad.” You just got an A, “Go Pokes” or you are headed to an 8 a.m. class and just split your coffee all over your brand new shirt, “go pokes.”
  • The “Family Aspect”- To describe Oklahoma State in one word everyone uses Family. You can just feel it when you are on campus. Through every bad thing that OSU has, they stick together. Despite everyone’s differences we all come together for the love of our school, our team and our ‘family’

Why I love my College/Department

The College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources

CASNR’s motto, “Expanding Minds. Inspiring Purpose.”

  • CASNR is broke into nine Academic Departments
    • That holds 16 majors with more than 59 study options, with some of the best advisors and professors in the country ( at least in my opinion)
  • Over 60 Student Organizations and Competitive Teams within the college with many opportunities to get involved know matter what you are interested in!
    • Fun Fact, The Animal Science Department alone last year had two National Champion Judging teams!
  • Also $1.4 Million awarded in scholarships every year! I mean who doesn’t want free money!

The Insides of Stillwater

  • Stillwater, Stilly or Chillwater as knows by the people who live there has been also Called “Americas Friendliest College Town”
  • Now to the Good Stuff the food:

Here’s where to get some of my favorites:

  • Eskimo Joe’s: Located right near campus and walking distance from Boone Pickens, Stillwater’s Jumpin’ Little Juke Joint since 1975, one of Stillwater’s most popular traditions. After more than 40 years and millions of T-shirts (and cups!) If you go make sure you order the Sweet Peppered Bacon Cheese Fries, Sometimes that’s all I get for my meal.
  • Pizza: If you’re craving pizza before game day, make sure to go visit the original Hideaway Pizza right around the corner from Boone Pickens or the Student Union. Hideaway just celebrated their 60th anniversary in Stillwater. Most known for their stuffed mushrooms or their tie-dye shirts, you won’t be disappointed by a piece of Stillwater history.
  • Now for one of the best places in Stillwater, Granny’s Kitchen. If you’re looking for AMAZING home good cooking for a great price then you have come to the right place. From huge cinnamon rolls and crispy bacon to hearty sandwiches and fun T-shirts you will always leave full. And to answer your question, it is worth the wait!
  • South Washington: Restaurant/Bar District, There’s always something going on and things to do and see. From Fuzzy’s Tacos to the late night Dirty Curty with pizza with Macaroni on it. What could be better!

I can’t believe three years have gone by at this amazing school and I will be graduating in May. Stillwater will always be in my heart! And always remember #GoPokes!






Top 10 Stockshow Essentials

Only 33 more days until Junior Nationals! Whoa… we know, it’s coming up fast and there’s so much to do! To help out a little bit we put together a “Stockshow Essentials List” All three of us grew up traveling to stockshows so we compiled a list of 10 things that everyone should have before takeoff to Tulsa.


  1. Speakers/headphones: A must for if you want to have a jam sesh with the crew or listen to your favorite playlist while blowing.

Here are our go-to jam songs

  • “My House” Flo Rida
  • “All I Do Is Win” DJ Khaled
  • “Any Man of Mine” Shania Twain
  • “Roar” Katy Perry
  • “The Way you make me feel’ Michael Jackson
  1. Snacks: You never seem to have a full meal at a stockshow so snacks are a must for eating here and there.

Our favorites

  • Emily’s Fav: Pretzel Goldfish and sweet tea.
  • Emma’s Fav: Licorice and Gatorade.
  • Leah’s Fav: Beef sticks and coffee.
  1. Comfy shoes: Let’s be honest we’re not wearing boots all day. Invest in some Sperry’s or Twisted X’s they will save your feet but just be sure to break them in first.
  2. Crock Pot: You learn very quickly that fair food is only good in moderation.
  3. Non-gravity chairs: Naps are a definite must, might as well make them comfortable.
  4. Revive and a Smart Sensation brush: You can never stop growing that hair.
  5. Hoodie: The fans can be strong, it’ll get chilly, be prepared and bring a hoodie. Oh and it also works as a blanket/pillow… double score.
  6. Zip ties and duct tape: You’ll need them. You always do.
  7. Drink Enhancer: Cattle can be even more picky with their water than we are about ours. #DramaQueens.

Some different options

  • Kool Aid: 4/5 heifers say Fruit Punch is the #1 flavor.
  • Water Filter: lets’ just hope no one walks away with yours.
  • Molasses: Only if you want to be sticky all day.
  1. Your favorite hat: A multiuse wardrobe item- whether you need it to cover up your messy hair after standing in front of the fans all day or you need to ward off those friends taking Snapchats of you sleeping during your much-needed nap, a hat can be a lifesaver.

Hope we could help with the planning process for Junior Nationals. Now it’s time to start your “to-do” list and attempt to get everything finalized and ready. Comment below some of your stockshow essentials! #NJSS17 #SoaringWithShorthorns

Getting to know your flight attendants

ASA passengers! Get to know your flight attendants (interns) a little more by learning about some of their favorite things and silly quirks.


What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?


I traveled to west and south Australia on a cattle tour in 2011, where I went ‘Roo’ hunting and found my love for Tim Tams.


I just spent the last semester studying and interning in Sydney, Australia so I would guess that would have to be it.


I have traveled to two islands in Hawaii, Honolulu and Maui twice.


What quirks do you have?


I sing all the time, loudly, in front of people I don’t know and sometimes not on key…okay most of the time.

I tend to quote lines from movies for day-to-day activities. Most of the time people haven’t seen the movie so I just end up looking crazy.

I’m pretty good at speaking in accents, they always start really good but for some reason they always end up in Russian. Every time. Without fail. No idea why.


I’m always leaving the fridge open when I am in the kitchen.

I tend to get really crabby if anyone wakes me up from a nap.


I get tired of songs very often so I am constantly switching them on a long road trip.



What are you addicted to?


Corgis, naps, Shania Twain and coffee.


Vanilla Iced Coffee, avocados, corgis and Shameless.


Netflix, Looking at puppies, Tacos and Sweet Tea.


What are three interesting facts about you?


I love to travel and between cattle tours and study abroad trips I have been to six countries including Canada, Costa Rica, England, Ireland, Spain and Australia.

I grew up showing in the South Devon Association and have attended every Junior Nationals since the Junior Association was formed 16 years ago.

I am freakishly good at guessing Disney songs within the first note, no one can ever beat me at ‘guess the movie’ Disney version.


I only have about 70% of my hearing which has caused me to naturally be a loud talker.

I rode an elephant through the jungle in Bali, Indonesia.

I very much dislike chocolate.


I have a strange fear of needles and blood.

I dislike spicy food even though I love Mexican food.

I can quote probably every word to Remember the Titans.







Our names are Leah, Emily and Emma and we will be your flight attendants (interns) for this summer. We are busy preparing for this year’s Junior Nationals, who’s ready to TAKE FLIGHT WITH RED, ROAN AND WHITE?! Our entertainment for this flight will be Top Gun, featuring the hunky Tom Cruise. The flight attendants and the rest of the flight crew here at ASA have been busy preparing for this coming journey to NJSS, prepare for take-off!

Flight attendant Leah:

This first week has ‘flown’ by and I have been loving working with Emily, Emma and everyone else in the office, it is a really fun work environment and I am so glad to be a part of it. I have been busy working on the exhibitor folder for this year’s junior nationals and also working with the Associations social media pages (Go give them a like!) So far, we haven’t explored Kansas City a lot but I am excited to play tourist this weekend and try some KC Barbecue. I can’t wait to ‘take-off’ for Tulsa and help make it a fun-filled experience for everyone attending, with us hard at work there should be no expected turbulence!

Flight Attendant Emily:

This week has gone by with little to no turbulence. I have been busy planning activities and getting contest stuff ready for the juniors to participate in at NJSS. It’s going to be a packed full trip and I can’t wait to be along for the journey with the rest of you. Along with planning fun filed activities, I have been working hard to make sure all the scholarship applications were perfect before being sent out to be judged. This was really easy with the help from the amazing staff here at the ASA. I have had many different tasks to work on so far and hope to make this year’s NJSS one of the best yet. I am also excited about getting to be tourist this weekend and get to go visit the rest of KC with my awesome flight attendants (interns).  Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

Flight Attendant Emma:

Hey Everyone, I hope your booking process (Entries) has been stress free and you are ready for a fun filled week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have been busy this week sorting through exhibitors and cattle to make sure everyone is accommodated properly.  I have spent four days staring at Excel sheets, by now I feel like I can personally tell you every single person aboard our flight (Attending Junior Nationals). Be on the look-out for a confirmation email for me in the next week confirming your trip (Entries). We have a great staff onboard here at ASA; Shelby, Montie, and everyone else are very welcoming. The tickets have been booked; we have a full flight headed to Tulsa and the pilot just turned the seat belt sign on so buckle up and prepare for take-off!


Our final destination is Tulsa, Oklahoma. The duration of this flight will be 45 days until NJSS. Remember to pack your aviators and flight suits for this adventure, we hope you enjoy your flight with us!

DNA Policy as of May 1, 2017

GeneSeek lab is the designated Lab for the ASA. However, AgriGenomics lab may be used as an alternative for testing Shorthorn genetic conditions only.

Testing results will only be accepted for the ASA registry from these 2 labs. A completed and signed order form must accompany the DNA samples submitted in order for testing results to be eligible for entry into the ASA registry. The ASA re-negotiated to reduce the bundle price for TH, PHA and DS with GeneSeek, and is now competitive with AgriGenomics. However, GeneSeek is unable to match the turnaround time for the 3 genetic condition tests.

Therefore, AgriGenomics may be used as an alternative lab only for genetic condition testing; this gives breeders an option when in need of a faster turnaround time. AgriGenomics is an alternative option for the ASA for testing the 3 genetic conditions, TH, PHA, and DS only. AGRIGENOMICS IS NOT CAPABLE OF DOING ANY PARENTAGE OR GENOMIC TESTS. The Shorthorn order form on the AgriGenomics website must be signed and completed when sending in samples. Test results will be sent by the lab to the ASA for entry into the registry. The ASA will charge a $3.00 fee per head to the breeder in order to manually enter AgriGenomics test results in the registry.

Anyone needing AI Sire and/or Donor Dam qualifications (parentage plus TH, PHA, and DS) will need to send their DNA to the ASA office with a completed and signed ASA order form. There is a special price for this package. GeneSeek lab test results are sent to the ASA in a compatible downloadable format therefore there is no additional fee for entering the test results from GeneSeek in the registry. All other tests, including Genomic testing must be sent to the ASA office for testing at the GeneSeek lab. (ASA DNA order form for GeneSeek lab and explanation of tests can be found on the ASA webpage under Forms, select DNA then DNA Genetic Testing.)

Welcome the 2017 ASA Interns!

Leah Giess is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying Agricultural Communications and Journalism. She has deep roots in the cattle industry growing up on a purebred cow/calf operation in central Minnesota. The exclusively family operated ranch has grown to become a nationally known source of quality purebred South Devon and Poundmaker genetics. Over the years she has worked to develop her own herd as well as helping with all aspects of the family’s cattle operations. She has been heavily involved in showing cattle and competing nationally in speech, quiz bowl, livestock judging and marketing at the NCBA Youth competitions. Leah recently participated on a study abroad trip to Ireland and interned with the Minnesota Beef Expo. She has been active in the North American South Devon Association for the past 15 years holding numerous board positions and also represented the breed as the Junior Ambassador. She is a member of K-State Block & Bridle, Collegiate Cattlemen’s, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and is a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association member. We are excited to have Leah on the team for the summer as the communications intern!


Emily Albert is a junior at Oklahoma State University majoring in Animal Science and Agricultural Communications. She started in production agriculture at a young age exhibiting livestock through her local 4-H and FFA chapter in Weatherford, Texas. She said she was very fortunate to be an active FFA member on a local and state level. These organizations ignited her passion for agriculture and the livestock industry. Throughout her college career she served as a Block & Bridle and Swine Club officer, as well as Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, and Alpha Zeta. After college, she would like to pursue a career in the livestock industry, communicating our story to the public. She is very honored to be able to work with the ASA this summer as the youth activities intern and hopes to learn the “ins and outs” of what a breed association does on a day to day basis and how she can help the Shorthorn breed reach new levels.


Emma Penzenstadler is from the Northern state of Minnesota where she calls Chisago City her home. She is currently finishing up her third year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she is majoring in Agricultural Communications and Marketing with a minor in animal science in hopes to work in the event management industry. She is excited to be back in the states and interning as the registrations intern with the American Shorthorn Association after spending the last several months living in Sydney, Australia. She is most excited to work along professionals in the beef industry and to see what a day to day role is like in a breed association. Emma’s livestock background consists of helping her parents on her family’s farm where they raise Purebred Hereford Cattle and show pigs. Along with previously serving as the Minnesota 4-H Livestock Coordinator at the Minnesota State Fair and the Auction Coordinator for the Chisago County Fair.




We are excited to have these three ladies in the ASA office starting in May to help with National Junior Shorthorn Show & Youth Conference.

Spring 2017 EPDs Available!

The Spring 2017 genetic evaluation is now available, including the first genomically-enhanced EPDs in the Shorthorn breed. The GE-EPDs will include Birth Weight, Weaning Weight, Yearling Weight, and Carcass Weight. Also, the new Stayability EPDs are now available.

The GE-EPDs are calculated using technology known as the blended method. Also known as the two-step method, the genetic evaluation is run the same way as it has always been calculated. Then, any animals with genomic information available have that information incorporated into the EPDs. While some change in EPD value is possible, the noticeable difference will be increased accuracies for animals with GE-EPDs. Young animals with low accuracies see the largest increase, while older, higher accuracy sires and dams will not see much (if any)change.

IGS developed the Stayability EPD as a tool to identify animals with genetic potential to produce daughters that stay in the herd longer. Stayability is abbreviated ST in the online registry, and it is part of the IGS multi-breed evaluation and can be compared to ST EPDs in other IGS partner breeds. Stayability is the probability of an animal’s daughters staying in the herd until six years of age. The ST EPD is expressed as a percentage. When comparing two bulls, if bull A has a ST EPD of +7, while bull B has a ST EPD of +2, you would expect 5 percent more daughters of bull A to stay in the herd to the age of six.

The ST EPD is calculated using a method known as the single step method and BOLT software. The new software will combine pedigree, phenotypic data, and available genomic information into the genetic evaluation simultaneously. In the future, IGS will be using BOLT to calculate all EPDs. For ST EPDs, a cow’s lifetime calving records are important to collect as we continue to build the database. If you have any questions on GE-EPDs or ST EPD, please contact Matt Woolfolk at ASA,


Fescue Management

Written by: Patrick Wall, Area Beef Field Specialist – SE Iowa, Marion County, Extension Office

It appears the recent attention to fescue grass at the ASA Annual Meeting has a few folks discussing the issue. That’s good. However, it’s probably necessary to attack the topic from all angles; the most successful ‘fescue farmers’ are doing that anyway. There are far more ways to deal with the grass than to find your cows a new zip code or disperse the herd for more tolerant genetics. We’ll start at the beginning.


If you, like me, are not a trained forage agronomist, fescue grass can be difficult to identify. I would encourage you to look at color photos online or pick up a forage identification book. Many Extension offices have these on hand. The simplest way to identify the grass is to grab a leaf by the tip and run your fingers along the edges downward towards the base of the leaf. If it feels like a serrated knife, it is likely tall fescue. The kind or species of fescue plant is much more difficult to spot with the naked eye.


There are actually 3 main types of fescue that plant breeders and forage companies have developed over the years: 1.) Endophyte-free varieties, also known as non-toxic fescue, are not detrimental to cattle, but they are also less hearty and tolerant to grazing pressure. These varieties are not persistent in the south.  As you move north, with shorter summers and less pressure from disease, insects, drought, and with deeper soils, they can persist better. If producers want this grass to survive long-term, it should not be overgrazed. 2.) Novel-endophyte varieties were developed by inserting different endophyte strains in to the fescue plant, but since endophytes occur naturally, it’s not a GMO grass! These grasses are more tolerant and aggressive, but also more expensive. 3.) Endophyte-infected varieties are what we most commonly see in pastures…and in road ditches, construction sites, etc. The grass establishes quickly, holds soil well, and persists in a drought, plus the seed is cheap. Many folks refer to this grass as “Kentucky 31,” though several varieties exist.


If you have planted fescue on your farm and are unsure what variety was seeded down, try to find out. The proper management for each type of grass is slightly different. Many pastures thick with toxic tall fescue were never seeded down to the grass by any farmer. Birds, deer and other animals carried the seed in from road ditches and other farms. Other cattle producers may have purchased toxic tall fescue hay and fed it on the pasture, or the cows seeded it down via feces when they were turned out. As a result, many farmers or ranchers don’t know they have the toxic grass; the fescue spread through the pasture over a number of years.


As you move north in the United States, the success of fescue grass dwindles. The old toxic fescue performs well across a wide band of eastern and Midwestern states, and novel varieties also do well unless they are overgrazed.  Given the cost of the seed, overgrazing can be a very expensive mistake. The endophyte-free varieties can thin out from overgrazing, drought, and pests. The further south you go, the less persistent they are because of the long summers and constant pressure from insects and diseases. The novel varieties do a bit better than endophyte-free ones.


More recently, producers have tried to effectively eradicate the toxic grass and replace it with a better variety for their cows. One of the more popular methods is referred to as “Spray-Smother-Spray.” In other words, use chemicals to kill everything including the toxic fescue, plant a smother crop like sorghum-sudan grass, then spray the pasture again to kill any remaining toxic fescue that remained in the seed bank. Weather can make this pretty challenging, there’s an obvious loss in production, and fence rows, steep terrain, and tree groves make it nearly impossible to achieve an adequate kill in some areas. Long story short, toxic tall fescue is likely here to stay.


It is important to note that not all toxic tall fescue has the same level of “infection.” Some fields may have less endophyte than others. The endophyte itself actually helps the plant survive and produces the alkaloids (toxins) that harm the cow. The part of the plant is crucial as well; less endophyte exists in the leaves, much more in the seed head and the stems at the base of the plant. Consequently, mowing the seed head off or keeping the plant in a vegetative state has proven effective in spring pastures. Forcing cows to eat mature fescue plants (in a drought situation or overgrazing) is often when we see problems like missing tail switches, poor reproductive performance, or “fescue foot,” where the feet actually die or freeze off from poor blood circulation.  Ranchers can test their grass or hay for the alkaloid “ergovaline” to get an idea of the toxicity level. Making hay from toxic tall fescue reduces the toxin level by half as sun curing lowers toxin levels.


Inter-seeding legumes like clovers and trefoil has proven effective at diluting tall fescue, offering a better ‘salad’ to the cows consuming forage. It works best if the fescue is grazed down tight or hayed in order to open up the canopy and allow sunlight to help the legumes grow. Remember, legumes produce their own nitrogen, which can reduce fertilizer needs. One common mistake producers make is applying heavy “N” fertilizer to pastures with toxic tall fescue. The fescue grass loves nitrogen and will grow at an alarming rate, smothering out other grasses and legumes in the mix. Nitrogen also feeds the toxins. Good intentions for pasture renovation often have the opposite effect in this scenario.


Rotational grazing can be an effective management tool as well, keeping tall fescue in a vegetative state where cows are just asked to consume the leaf material. If the pasture has been renovated with novel or endophyte-free fescue, allowing ample recovery time will extend the life of the more desirable varieties. Again, if stocking rates are increased and/or drought conditions persist, some of the desired varieties will not likely survive the challenge. Some producers have found that over-stocking pastures during heavy spring growth then relaxing the stocking rate through the summer helps take advantage of the growth pattern of the grass and limits the toxicity level. Many herds will turn stocker cattle on to fescue grass or even wean them later off the cow when grass growth slows in early summer. Obviously, this only works in a fall calving scenario where winter conditions are tolerable or supplemental feed can be offered to meet the animals’ requirements. The increase in popularity of fall calving is a direct result of producers learning to manage toxic tall fescue.


Another successful management tool with toxic fescue grass is stockpiling for winter grazing. If the producer can prevent the grass from producing a seed head, he/she can also take advantage of the substantial fall growth offered by the plant. The toxin levels increase through the early fall, so grazing can be delayed until late winter, when the toxin levels drop again. Keep in mind, when temperatures plummet in the winter months, poor blood circulation to the extremities can have severe consequences. Producers should test winter forages for nutritional levels and presence of toxins. Remember, you’re not spending all that money to cut, rake, bale, transport, and deliver hay to the cows. They do the baling for you and place the nutrients right back on the ground where you need them. Tall fescue does an amazing job of holding protein and feed value in stockpiled form, often exceeding the nutrient requirements of a gestating cow. If the grass is held under a snow pack, it can be tremendous winter feed. Cows can bury their heads in over a foot of snow to consume forage…and gain weight doing it!


Now, on to the cow. Regardless of breed or genetics, producers can do several things to help their herd thrive in a fescue environment. 1.) Acclimation – Cows that are accustomed to toxic fescue, on average, simply do better on the grass…and so do the calves they produce. That’s not to say that cows naïve to the grass cannot adjust, they can. The longer we give them to adjust before the challenges of lactation and rebreeding begin, the better. Much of the drive for the research discussed at the ASA Annual Meeting was to see if genomics can help us identify which cows do it better, regardless of their zip code. 2.) Supplementation – As the word implies, offering cows some better feed in addition to the fescue diet can help. Of course, added labor and feed costs make this a less desirable option for many producers. However, increased conception rates, tighter subsequent calving intervals, heavier weaning weights, and fewer health problems can help offset the added expense. Some commercial minerals also offer additives that can help cows maintain their body temperature and overall immune function. Be sure to follow label instructions enforced by the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and consult your veterinarian if necessary. 3.) Shade – This may seem quite simple, but allowing a cow to cool her body temperature can help immensely with performance, displaying estrus, first service conception, etc. Adequate water supply can be beneficial as well; any calories a cow burns walking to water are calories she cannot put in to her calf. Likewise, a good blade of grass that’s too far from water likely won’t get consumed.


There are a number of other successful management strategies for toxic tall fescue not described in the article. I would strongly encourage producers to read up on the subject even if you don’t live in the Fescue Belt. I have included a number of resources for you to study at your leisure.