An In-Depth Look at Selection Indices: Part 1

A hot topic in the hallway at the ASA Annual Meeting in Kansas City was the use of selection indices and the tools we have available in the Shorthorn breed. Selection index technology wasn’t an official topic in the educational forum, but I believe there was a lot of interest and educating going on among many breeders in attendance. There was a lot of good information and philosophy spread amongst breeders, and I hate that everyone couldn’t be in attendance to be a part of these discussions. That spurred the idea to spend a few months writing about selection indices, how they work, and what we have available in the Shorthorn breed at this time for you to use in your breeding programs. In order to get the best view we can at the whole picture, I think it’s only fitting that we start with the basics before diving into the more specific material.

The development of selection indices in the beef cattle industry are a relatively new addition to genetic evaluations. After EPDs came along, the idea to combine some of those genetic predictors into a single figure to attempt to gauge economic and genetic merit led to the implementation of the selection index. A selection index is intended to give a cattleman a relative economic value for an individual animal when in a specific production scenario. Traits that are important to a scenario are identified and included in an equation. The traits in the equation are weighted based on their economic value in the individual production scenario. Depending on the situation, some traits will be weighted significantly in the calculations, while others may only play a small role in the final output. Simply put, a selection index is like a long, complicated algebra formula, but instead of just X and Y for variables, there are a LOT more, with some indices having nearly enough components to have variables A through Z!

Usually, an association will offer several selection index options to their membership to try and meet several of their breeding objectives. Each index is calculated from a specific production situation, and it is important to know and understand those situations when studying an index. An index built for a breeding program of mature cows may not be as effective for you if you are looking to breed heifers. An index built with retained ownership of feeder cattle in mind may not quite fit your needs (or the needs of your customers) if selling calves at weaning is your main objective. Of course, whatever index is available to you may not be a perfect fit for your operation, but there’s a good chance that one or more indices will fit the needs of your program pretty well.

A selection index is designed to help breeders improve genetic merit without the drawbacks of single trait selection that can sometimes occur when using a single EPD to make breeding decisions. We all know that multiple traits must be taken into consideration when evaluating what makes profitable cattle in any situation, and a selection index is the best tool we have of predicting which animals can work in an environment.

The American Shorthorn Association has four available selection indices available for breeder use in their mating and selection decisions. They include $Calving Ease, $British Maternal Index, $Feedlot and $Fescue. In future issues, I will go into more detail about the components and uses of each index. Identifying traits of importance, the production scenarios designed for each index, and how we can use them as Shorthorn breeders and commercial seedstock producers will be discussed.

In the ever changing world of beef cattle genetic evaluation and selection, the use of the selection index is growing increasingly popular with commercial bull buyers. As providers of commercial seedstock, I hope that you feel it is part of your responsibility to understand and assist your customers in finding and using the proper selection index that meets their operation’s criteria. Hopefully, I will be able to fulfill my responsibility to give you the information you need to accomplish this goal over the next few articles!

NEW BOARD MEMBERS AND OFFICERS

During the American Shorthorn Association Annual Meeting on December 1, delegates from all over the country gathered to elect new ASA board members.

The nominating committee submitted three candidates for the available positions. Hugh Mooney, a board member from California, was elected for his second term. John Sonderman from Columbus, Nebraska, and Toby Jordan from Rensselaer, Indiana, were elected for their first term to the ASA board. They will serve a three-year term.

Following the Annual Meeting, the board met to elect new officers, for the nine-member board. The new president of the board is Rick Leone of Colorado, vice-president is Nancy Grathwohl-Heter of Kansas, and the executive director is Hugh Mooney of California. They serve alongside Tom Turner of Ohio, Joe Bales of Tennessee, Robert Alden of Missouri, Dave Greenhorn of Ohio, Toby Jordan of Indiana, and John Sonderman of Nebraska.

AMERICAN SHORTHORN ASSOCIATION INTRODUCES GENOMIC TESTING INCENTIVE

In an effort to encourage breeders to genomically test more Shorthorn females, ASA is introducing the Genomically Enhanced Heifer Program (GEHP).

ASA will be offering incentive to breeders who take advantage of the uLD (25k) or 50k genomic test on their heifer crops. All heifers tested as a part of this program will have genomically-enhanced EPDs.

Breeders whose animals are eligible will receive a credit on their ASA account for a portion of the cost of the uLD or 50k genomic tests done on replacement heifers. This will give breeders the opportunity to genomically test females at a significantly discounted rate.

For a heifer to be eligible for the testing rebate, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Heifer must be born on or after January 1, 2017
  2. 75% of the yearling heifer inventory must be tested
  3. All heifers tested must have a recorded calving ease score, birth weight, weaning weight & yearling weight
  4. Heifers with recorded carcass ultrasound or feed intake records will receive an additional rebate

“The GEHP will allow Shorthorn breeders to add valuable genomic information to the future of their cow herds: the replacement heifers,” said Matt Woolfolk, ASA Director of Performance Programs. “ Additionally, the program will allow us to strengthen the ASA genomic database, which will significantly aid us in our commitment to offer the best genetic selection tools possible to ASA membership.”

If you have questions about this program, please contact Matt Woolfolk at ASA (matt@shorthorn.org).

STATE ASSOCIATION CO-OP ADVERTISING PROGRAM UPDATED GUIDELINES

STATE ASSOCIATION CO-OP ADVERTISING PROGRAM

  1. The state association coop advertising program is designed to help ASA and state associations share the cost of promoting the Shorthorn breed.
  2. Advertisement requests must be made by state association’s president, vice-president or secretary manager. Advertisements cannot be requested by groups of breeders or individuals.
  3. The ASA will reimburse 50% of the ad cost, up to a total of $650 per state per fiscal year.
  4. There are limited coop funds available for states in each fiscal year. No more coop ads will be funded when available funds have been utilized.
  5. Each state association must pay advertisement and send paid invoice to ASA to be reimbursed. ASA encourages the state association to include a copy of the ad placed with paid invoice.
  6. ASA will have 4 general ad choices and 2 contract ads for state associations to choose from. ASA encourages states to use contract ads for more Shorthorn promotion throughout the year.
    1. General Ads are a minimum of a quarter page in size and not larger than a full page in size.
    2. Contract Ads cannot be smaller than 1 column by 2 inches.
    3. Ads will have space to include the state association logo and contact information.
    4. Ads will include the ASA logo and contact information.
    5. Ads can include state events, dates and locations but not individual breeder information and dates.
    6. All ad requests must be submitted to ASA at least 5 business days before deadline. Ads will not be eligible for ad copy approval if received less than 10 business days before deadline.
  7. State Associations must provide the following ad specs to the ASA.
    1. Publication name, phone number and email address
    2. Ad Deadline
    3. Ad Size
    4. Full Color or Black & White
    5. State Association information to be included in ad
  8. State associations are required to meet above guidelines in order to be eligible to receive reimbursement for coop ads.

Guidelines updated September 26, 2018

KY State Fair Super Regional

On Friday, August 24, 2018, Shorthorn exhibitors showed at the Kentucky State Fair. The Super Regional Show was judged by Josh Taylor of Perkins, OK. Taylor evaluated 32 purebred females, 9 purebred bulls and 14 ShorthornPlus females.

Grand Champion Female was awarded to BRH Proud Fool 1720 shown by Caroline Winter of Ashville, OH.

Reserve Grand Champion Female honors went to GCC Evolution Charm 7102 ET, exhibited by Kolten Greenhorn of Waynesville, OH.

Grand Champion Bull was Armstrong Easy Rider 1603 exhibited by John Allen IV of Saxonburg, PA.

Reserve Grand Champion Bull was EGL Neptune MX 759 exhibited by Eva Ennis of Martinsville, IN.

In the ShorthornPlus show, Grand Champion Female honors went to 4D Mae Lynn D21E shown by Rachel Drumm of Winchester, KY.

Reserve Grand Champion ShorthornPlus Female was LCF Roxie Diamond 727 exhibited by Reba Prather of Nancy, KY.

Adios Interns

Today marks the last day of our internship here in Kansas City. It’s been a whirlwind of a time learning about the association, working with junior members and planning Junior Nationals and the IGS Summit. These summer months have flown by and we are going to miss all of the staff members in the office, but we are leaving with some great memories and experiences. Working in a breed association has been the perfect opportunity to help us grow in our professional skills and give us a look into career possibilities. Everyone in the office has been so welcoming and helpful, and we are grateful for the friendly atmosphere we were able to work in.

 

For our last day, we decided to throw a potluck brunch. This year, for the Beef Cook-Off contest at Junior Nationals, the key ingredient was steak. We decided to center our dish around this cut of beef and thought breakfast burritos would be the perfect way to start our last day. After searing the steak on the stove, we added some scrambled eggs and bundled the mix up in individual flour tortillas. Shelby brought potatoes as her side dish, which made for a great addition to the burritos. After a healthy dose of some salsa and cheese, the perfect burrito was born and the fiesta began!

 

Once everyone had eaten their body weight in burritos and side dishes, it was time for Anna and Emily Dyes to return to college for their final year of school, and Emily Meinhardt for her junior year. Our time here may have seemed short, but we will remember our experiences for a long time to come.

Weekend in Cow Town

Emily Meinhardt

My first trip to the historic “Cow Town” was definitely a memorable one. Summit offered so many great opportunities to grow your industry knowledge, experience the Stockyards and see breeders’ operations. For me, getting to know people and making connections always ends up being my favorite part. I loved getting to meet kids my age across the different breeds, along with learning about their breeds by attending the ranch tours. I am not much of a history geek, but I found the Stockyard history very interesting to learn with the impact Fort Worth had on the cattle industry. This is a great opportunity that I believe every junior should take advantage of.

 

Anna Miller

I was excited to attend Summit this year because it was held in the historic Stockyards of Fort Worth, Texas. The Stockyards has such a fun atmosphere, and there is so much western expansion history in the area that it makes for an interesting visit. My favorite part of Summit was being able to interact with the juniors on a more personal level compared to junior nationals. In Madison, I mostly dealt with the junior members on paper and didn’t have many opportunities to get to know them. However, at Summit I was in charge of icebreakers and group activities. This gave me more of a chance to interact with members from across the three different associations. My family raises Red Angus cattle, so it was interesting for me to tour ranches from three different breeds that I am not as familiar with. Overall, Summit was a blast and felt more like a vacation than a weekend of work!

 

Emily Dyes

For me, one of the highlights of our trip to Fort Worth was the quick tour we had of the Stockyards. I grew up in Texas and have been to the Stockyards numerous times, but I still found it interesting to learn about the role that Fort Worth played in shaping the cattle industry and learned a lot of facts I didn’t previously know. A fact I learned was that cattle were only worth four dollars in San Antonio area and worth $40 in Kansas City — it definitely makes sense why everyone was moving cattle up the Chisholm Trail! Also, Bonnie and Clyde stayed at the Stockyards Hotel, so it was pretty cool to be in a building they once were in.

College Tips from the Interns

College can be overwhelming and stressful at points. Here are some of our tips to make sure you have a successful semester at college.

  1. Get involved.

There is an organization for everyone at college. Try out several organizations and find a couple that fit for you. Getting involved in organizations within your major is a great way to make connections with other students, faculty and even alumni. Be careful because it is easy to get over involved — make sure to find a few organizations that work with your schedule.

  1. Get to know your professors and faculty within your department.

Getting to know those involved in your department can open a lot of doors for you. Professors are more likely to lend a helping hand to a familiar face, whether it be with class-related things or helping with connections. If you can, try to sit in the front row of your classes so professors get used to seeing your face and notice your presence!

  1. Take advantage of a free meal when you can get it.

You would be surprised with  how many free meals you can get in college! My freshman year I was living on campus and at least once a week (normally more) there would be an organization giving out free pizza or social nights with free ice cream. Definitely take advantage of these! Money will get tighter during your college days, so anything free is a plus and it’s also a great way socialize.

  1. Learn your way of studying.

Studying can be difficult, especially if you never had to study in high school. It is important to find your way of studying early on in your college career. This might be reviewing before you go to each class, or maybe it’s making flashcards. Find a strategy that works for you that you can stick with.

  1. Study abroad.

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, while also experiencing different cultures. Study abroad agricultural programs allow you to experience different scales of agriculture and production methods you are unfamiliar with. You would be surprised with how different the world varies in agricultural practices.

  1. Attend networking events.

Networking can often seem intimidating and nerve-racking, but it is an essential skill to learn. Try attending events as soon as you can, even as a freshman, so you can practice your skills connecting with others. If your school hosts career fairs, attend and talk to recruiters for practice, even if you aren’t looking for a job right away. This will make you feel more comfortable in the future when you begin seriously looking for a job.

  1. Find a balance.

This can make or break you when you go to college. You need to figure out how to balance schoolwork with social life, working, and trying to stay healthy. It’s not always easy, but once you adjust to being on your own and making your own choices you’ll be fine!

  1. Sleep is important.

Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed with school, work, activities and studying you forget an important factor in it all: sleep. All-nighters are necessary at some points, but not constantly. Know the amount of sleep you need to be productive during the day.

  1. Find a buddy in each class.

This can be the most important one at times. You never know when you’ll need to miss class and notes. Also, study buddies are a great reso

urce to learn from each other.

  1. Your friends will change, and that’s okay.

It’s important to know you may not stay best friends with people you grew up with just because you go to the same college. Do try to stay in contact and don’t forget about your hometown friends, but don’t be afraid to branch out and be open minded to making new friends.

Interns Views on NJSS

Now that we are all settled back in from the NJSS we want to share with you what us interns enjoyed about the week in Madison.

 

Emily Meinhardt

Growing up attending Hereford Junior Nationals, being part of NJSS was a different experience for me. I have enjoyed seeing all the little and big details that go into planning a national event. Attending Junior Nationals has always been the highlight of my summer, so I enjoyed attending another one and getting to know exhibitors and breeders within the Shorthorn breed. I spent a large majority of my time capturing those precious moments through a lens at NJSS. Getting to photograph each exhibitor showcasing their projects and watching their passion shine was definitely the highlight of my experience. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the week “Under the Big Top.”

 

Emily Dyes

My favorite part of Junior Nationals was getting to see all of the time and hard work put into each participant’s projects. Whether it was in the show ring or contests, kids from across the country took pride in what they brought to Madison. Being the Registrations intern, I felt like I knew every kid’s name by heart and talked to many parents on the phone, so finally putting faces to all the names was awesome. Thanks for a great NJSS this year, good luck to everyone next year!

Anna Miller

The National Junior Shorthorn Show was one of the first times I have experienced a Junior Nationals. It was a huge learning experience for me, and I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of helping to organize the event. As the Youth Activities intern, I enjoyed organizing contests and meeting contest judges, putting together scripts and presentations, and helping with the odd tasks that needed to be done. It was exciting to arrive at the NJSS and finally be able to put a face to all the names I learned in preparation for Junior Nationals. Overall, the show was an incredible opportunity and I have so many fun memories!