An In-Depth Look at Selection Indices: Part 3

We’ve reached the finale in the series of articles discussing the lineup of available selection indices for Shorthorn breeders and customers. After covering the basics of what goes into a selection index in January, and further explaining $Calving Ease and $Feedlot in February, March finds us with two final pieces of the index puzzle to piece together: $British Maternal Index ($BMI) and $Fescue.

$British Maternal Index

The written definition of $BMI on the ASA website is as follows:

“This multi-trait selection index attempts to measure a bull’s potential profitability when complimenting the British cow base (Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, etc.) in a maternal breeding program. Shorthorn females can likewise be gauged at adding value to British or British-composite bulls of other breeds. A balance of growth (WW) and carcass traits (REA, Fat, MB) are desired with a strong maternal component (CED, Milk, CEM) aimed at moderate mature size (YW), optimum reproductive efficiency and cow longevity.”

A few points of emphasis can be gleaned from this Websteresque definition. First and foremost, you can figure out that there are several traits of interest included in $BMI. In a more comprehensive scenario like this one, there are more traits that become involved. I think you will notice that the production situation outlined in this index is more complex than $Feedlot, and certainly more involved than $Calving Ease. Many of America’s commercial cattle producers have their programs set up with management similar to what is described in $BMI: British-based cows, selling calves at weaning, and retaining replacements heifers.

With most commercial cattlemen selling calves at weaning, the economic drivers of this sector of their enterprise are ive calves and pounds of calf at weaning. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense for the CED and WW EPDs to play a significant part of $BMI. Weaning weight has arguably the most significant impact on $BMI of any included traits. When retaining females for the breeding herd, they need to be able to have a live calf, produce milk to raise that calf, and do so in a moderate mature size. While we have EPDs to measure two of these 3 traits (CEM and Milk), we have to use YW as an indicator trait for mature size since there is a not current EPD for mature cow weight in the Shorthorn genetic evaluation. A higher YW EPD has a more negative impact on $BMI, as bigger YW indicates a larger mature cow size. Even though it is not a direct point of emphasis in the scenario outlined for $BMI, carcass traits (REA, Fat, Marb) do play a role in the calculation, albeit smaller than the other traits outlined. Once these cattle are sold at weaning and enter the feedlot, the ones with the genetic capability to perform on the rail become more valuable to feeders.

When the $BMI index was developed, The American Shorthorn Association did not have a Stayability EPD to include in $BMI. Obviously, the ability of a female to stay in the cow herd productively has an impact on her ability to add profit to the ranch’s bottom line. Like I mentioned in the previous article for $Feedlot, it’s not as easy to edit an index as to just stick the Stayability EPD into the $BMI formula and it still work properly. There have been several discussions amongst staff, ASA BOD and breeders involved in ASA committees on the best way to improve this index going forward.

$Fescue

The youngest and most unique member of the Shorthorn index lineup is $Fescue. The components of $Fescue are very similar to $BMI, but with an added genomic piece to the puzzle. The addition of $Fescue is only for those animals who have had the Fescue Tolerance T-Snip test that is offered by AgBotanica performed and recorded with ASA. The test results are reported on a 0-50 scale, with cattle scoring a 50 considered to be most tolerant of toxic fescue. Research from AgBotanica indicates that cows with incrementally higher scores for the fescue tolerance test weaned off heavier calves than those with lower scores (40s weaned off heavier calves than 30s, who weaned off heavier than 20s, etc.)

The methodology behind $Fescue includes the calculation of $BMI with the Fescue Tolerance test score incorporated into the equation as a weighted factor. With the research conducted by AgBotanica showing how much of an effect the score has on weaning weight produced, it was possible to weight the score into a selection index. The most logical piece to incorporate with $Fescue is $BMI, as a production scenario that is most likely to be impacted by grazing toxic fescue is a cow/calf situation like the one outlined for $BMI.

Wrap Up
With this look into the components of each selection index that is offered to ASA members, hopefully you now have a better idea of what makes up these tools and have more confidence to use them in your mating decisions. As always, these are just a few of the available tools out there to help you breed better cattle. A tool is only useful if it’s used properly, and only using one tool to try and do a complex job (like breeding cattle) can prove very difficult. Use your knowledge of your herd, in addition to the available tools like EPDs and selection indices, to make the most informed decision.

Written by Matt Woolfolk, Director of Performance Programs

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!

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

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!

 

Get to know the Interns

Emily Meinhardt (In the office I am known as “Emily Hereford”)

Hometown:Marysville, Kansas

Fun Facts about Marysville:

  • Home of the black squirrels
  • Home to Valley Vet, I worked there in High School. If you ever go through definitely stop and get a tour if you can. It’s an incredible place!

University:Kansas State University

Here is a video link to get you excited about K-State. WATCH IT, you won’t regret it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww40DOpNGR0

Interesting Facts:

  • Founded in 1863 as the first land grant university
  • Originally known as Kansas State Agricultural College

Staples of being a Wildcat:

  • Purple Pride Ice Cream: Any big K-State event will without a doubt have Call Hall ice cream. Purple Pride, which is blueberry flavored, was created as a staple to K-State.
  • The Wabash Cannonball: Dance routine that symbolizes Wildcat unity, done at EVERY sporting event, and then of course at all K-State couples weddings. Growing up going to K-State football games this has always been my favorite tradition.
  • “Family”: It is without a doubt how you feel while at anything K-State related.
  • Favorite place to eat: Powercat, they have incredible Mac & Cheese, that you can load with anything you’ve ever imagine.

Major:Agriculture communications and journalism with minors in leadership studies and animal sciences and industry.

Involvement:Kappa Alpha Theta, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Block and Bridle, and Student Government of Association

Interesting Fact: My families business, KanEquip, sells BLUE tractors. Once in pre-school I got in trouble because I wouldn’t dress up on green day and I said I hated it. Oooops!

Obsessions: McDonalds sweet tea, baby calves (especially Herefords), planners (I love being organized), and the Lake

Dream Job:Own a boutique and with an antique store attached, where I can spend my day refurbishing old furniture (nothing to do with AgCom, I know).

 

Anna Miller

Hometown: Linden, California

School: Oklahoma State University

Cool Facts:

  • After every touchdown, we have a black quarter horse named Bullet gallop around the football field.
  • We have a Quidditch team (yes, really) and have made it to Nationals a few times. Yeah, Harry Potter!
  • It used to be tradition for upperclassmen to throw freshmen into the campus pond, but now there is a $400 fine for doing so.
  • In the ’70s, the Strip — Stillwater’s strip of bars — was commonly used for streaking.

Major:Agricultural Communications and Animal Science

Involvement: Delta Delta Delta, Oklahoma Collegiate Cattlewomen, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and FARM Theory.

Campus favorite things:

  • The fountain in front of the library is dyed orange during Homecoming season.
  • Hammocking at the OSU Botanic Garden is the best way to study with the free Wi-Fi. Or the reality: taking a nap after cruising social media, courtesy of the provided Wi-Fi.
  • Game Day is the best day ever and will forever remain so! #gopokes

Go-to places to eat: Chips and queso at Fuzzy’s with your best pals.

Interesting fact:I have an attention-starved miniature dachshund who even has his own Instagram account (go follow @teenie_weenie_charkie!)

3 obsessions:

    1. Red cows. Red Angus will forever hold my heart (Shorthorns are growing on me though!)
    2. I’m a big meme gal and can scroll through Twitter eternally.
    3. Making unnecessary Instagram accounts (see above interesting fact). I also made one last semester while I was abroad in Ireland: @anna_eating_abroad. Bet you can figure out what that one featured!

Dream job:Working in the agriculture industry where I can meet new people and share our industry’s story!

 

Emily Dyes

Hometown:Holliday, TX

(There are really no interesting facts about the BIG town of Holliday (population 1,700); however, I do know Doc Holliday was not from here)

University: Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)

Traditions/Fun Facts:

  • Tortilla Toss– This became a tradition in 1992 when an ESPN announcer made the comment that the only thing in Lubbock was “Tech football and a tortilla factory”.Two days after this, Tech played Texas A&M (ranked in the top 10 at the time) and beat them. It was a pretty big upset, so the tradition stuck (although it hasn’t brought much luck lately).
  • Texas Tech as two official mascots-
    • The Masked Rider-started as a dare in 1936, no one knew the rider’s identity so he was called the ghost rider. In 1954 the Masked Rider became the official mascot, making Tech the first school with a live horse.
    • Raider Red-Became an official mascot in 1971 when the Southwest Conference created the rule that no live animals would be allowed at away games unless the hosting school permitted it.
  • “Guns Up”-Started in 1960 and is commonly thrown up when people say, “Wreck ‘Em”. Oklahoma State does something similar with “Pistols Firing” but this wasn’t a thing for our Northern siblings until 2001.

Major: Interdisciplinary Agriculture (AgEd)

Interesting Facts about myself:

  • I’m terrified of mayonnaise. (Don’t ask; I know it’s very irrational).
  • I’ve raised and showed Shorthorns my whole life.
  • I have abnormally small hands for someone that’s 5’9.
  • For 2 years I went to a school that had the smallest 6-man football team in Texas (Cranfills Gap), I also only had 4 kids in my grade there!

 Obsessions:

  • Black coffee
  • Johnny Cash (and really any old country)
  • PIZZA

 

 

2017 ASA/University of Illinois Sire Test Early Results

Early results are in from the 2017 ASA Sire Test with the University of Illinois, and Shorthorn genetics look to be proving their mettle in a real-world commercial setting. Even though they are heavily involved in cow-calf research, the University of Illinois runs their cow herd as close to a no-nonsense commercial operation as you will find in any university system. It’s a great opportunity to work with cattle that are forced to work in tight breeding seasons, have quality udders, and maintain themselves while raising a calf on minimal supplementation. A special thanks to the breeders who participated in the 2017 Sire Test. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to gather this valuable information that will help move the Shorthorn breed towards our goals of growing commercial acceptance for our cattle. From September 8- October 4, 151 Shorthorn-sired calves were born, with 91% of the calves born in the 17 day window from September 13- September 30. Using UI’s SimAngus cow herd resulted in 123 black-hided calves, 15 black calves with white markings/blue roans, and 13 red hided calves. These calves were raised without creep feed until weaning on February 14, 2018. After some time to precondition the cattle, they will be shipped to the UI Farm near the university campus this month, where they will go on feed. Data collection in this phase of the trial will include gain, feed efficiency, and eventually carcass data. Initial reports indicate that these weights stack up comparably to other calves within the UI herd, showcasing the value of Shorthorns as the British breed crossbreeding solution. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to draw any conclusions comparing groups of extremely small size. Having only 1 or 2 calves may not be a fair representation of a sire’s genetic capabilities. Unfortunately, nature didn’t bless us with perfect distribution of steer and heifer calves across all sires. Weaning weight data listed is adjusted to a 205 day weaning weight. All data has been uploaded to Digital Beef. We are working with UI to plan a field day in August. This will include a chance to see the cattle on feed, as well as educational presentations and fellowship with other Shorthorn breeders. Be sure to look for more information on this event in future issues of the Shorthorn Country. View Full Report Here!

American Rancher featuring Shorthorn Cattle

This is the most recent American Rancher featuring Shorthorn cattle. The ASA slogan ‘Performance with Purpose’ truly describes the Shorthorn breed and the breeders that raise Shorthorn cattle. Check it out!

 

Saturday August 25: National Shorthorn Sire Test Field Day

Mark your calendar for Saturday, August 25. The ASA and the University of Illinois will be hosting the National Shorthorn Sire Text Field Day.
9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Join us on the U of I campus for an educational program as we discuss the ASA Sire Test. Speakers include Dr. Dan Shike from University of Illinois, Matt Woolfolk from ASA and more.
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch catered by the U of I Meat Science Club
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. –  We will head out to the University Farm to view the calves in the feedlot from the 2017 ASA Sire Test
If you would like to join us for this event, please contact Matt Woolfolk to RSVP (matt@shorthorn.org).

Single-Step EPDs: Sounding Like a Broken Record

Have you ever been pulling out of your driveway, headed to church or to dinner, only to notice just before you leave that your cows are out? Well, our cows have gotten out again on our way to finalizing the single-step genetic evaluation using the new BOLT software. When the IGS team noticed an issue with the data submission systems in another breed, it had an effect on all of us that are members of the group. Now they are working on fixing the issues, and would like to do some test runs before releasing the information live to the breeders .Ideally, they would like to have four weekly test runs without errors in able to go live. Doing so will give IGS better opportunities to find and fix issues before releasing the improved run. It’s more important to the IGS team to get it done correctly than to just get it done. Their diligence to bringing us the best genetic evaluation in the industry should certainly be commended, even if we have to be patient a while longer.

With new technology comes a learning curve, and if you are a student like me, repetition is necessary to grasp the major concepts. Since there are some new changes with the transition to the single-step multi-breed genetic evaluation, we will discuss some of those a little further to drive home the significance.

With the move to the new single-step genetic evaluation, it has been noted the accuracy values you will see in the registry will be lower than values from the previous EPD runs. That certainly sounds confusing, but there is a method to the madness. When EPD calculations first began, there simply wasn’t enough computer power available to do the tabulations necessary to come up with the true accuracy of an EPD. Instead, the scientists of the day used a technique called the approximation method to come up with as good of a prediction of accuracy as the technology of the day could compute. Geneticists realized that while these approximations of accuracy were they best they could do at the time, they were probably a bit overinflated compared to the “true” accuracy of an EPD. Thanks to technology advancements, we are now able to process the tabulations that produce the truer accuracy value that wasn’t possible before. It will take some time to wrap our heads around bulls that were once listed at a 0.90 accuracy might now be closer to a 0.65, but remember that the newer, lower number is a better representation of the accuracy value. It’s like your neighbor’s fishing stories: If he told you he caught a 15 pounder (old method of accuracy calculation), in reality he probably caught a 10 or 12 pound fish (new single-step accuracy method)!

A neat feature of the new single-step genetic evaluation is how genomic data is handled during the calculations. We have already covered how the new system eliminates a step in the current process of calculating genomically-enhanced EPDs. What’s interesting is that with the new system, not only does genomic data affect the animal that has been genomically tested, but also related animals. If you have genomically tested your herd bull, then the information gathered from his genotype has an effect on his offspring’s EPDs, as well as half and full siblings and other closely related animals. That does not mean that just having DNA on your herd bulls is a good substitution for genotyping your replacement females or sale bulls. Obviously, having information on an animal’s own genomic profile will be more valuable than just having the sire DNA tested. After all, Dad’s genetics are only half the story! Testing the offspring gives you the full genomic story.