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Angus Productions Inc.

February 20, 2012

David Gazda

Association Perspective

Low-birth-weight EPDs

Looking at a single trait on EPDs costs performance and money.

One of the most common concerns I hear from commercial producers using Angus genetics is the size of calves at birth. Instinctively, my first thought is that the producers experienced calving problems due to the calves being too large at birth. However, the problem generally tends to be just the opposite, where the calves have been extremely small and light at birth, struggled to nurse and never caught up with their contemporaries from a growth standpoint.
Upon visiting with the producer and reviewing the bull's registration certificate and EPD profile, I usually discover a common theme — the producer had been selecting primarily for calving-ease, low-birth-weight-EPD bulls with no regard to any other traits. This is certainly understandable if the producer is breeding heifers and needs a certain level of calving ease delivered by low-birth-weight Angus bulls. Furthermore, in the southeast, like many other areas of the country where cow herds are relatively small, the herd bull may have to be multipurpose, breeding both heifers and mature cows with, again, emphasis being placed on calving ease.

At the risk of being controversial, many of these small calf scenarios could be eliminated if the producers would simply be willing to accept more birth weight, particularly when breeding mature cows. One only has to attend a production or test station sale to witness firsthand how the heavier-birth-weight-EPD bulls are penalized and therefore sell at a substantial discount. Have calving-ease and low-birth-weight EPDs been overemphasized to commercial producers? Maybe; maybe not.

Regardless, the commercial producer equates Angus genetics with calving ease, fertility, maternal strength and carcass quality, and as seedstock producers we are challenged daily to deliver those genetics.

In closing, producers need to select bulls that allow them to reach their production goals; however, single-trait selection based upon an individual's birth weight EPD may needlessly sacrifice additional pounds at weaning. Next time you are in the market for a bull, don't discriminate against a little more birth weight EPD. You will still receive the calving ease you have always expected from Angus and a few extra dollars in your pocket at weaning!

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Editor's Note: Regional Manager David Gazda covers Region 4, including the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Click here to find the regional manager for your state.

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