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Casey Jentz Casey Jentz

Association Perspective

The art of cattle breeding.

The beef cattle industry, especially the Angus breed, has been very progressive during the past couple decades. We’ve used the latest, science-based technologies to make great strides in a relatively short amount of time. Just one of many examples, expected progeny differences (EPDs) have allowed the Angus breed to become the industry leader in growth, calving ease and carcass quality. Angus cattle have always exhibited these traits, but we have been able to push further than ever with technology.

Genomics are another example that help producers identify curve-bending cattle with greater frequency and at a younger age. We’re able to identify bulls and females with the potential to excel earlier than ever before, which has made progress even more rapid.

Technology is a great thing, but it goes hand in hand with a keen eye for improving and breeding cattle. The value of an exceptional herdsman cannot be understated. A herdsman has the ability to identify traits not measured numerically and improve them. They take traits like udder quality, feet and leg structure, and general phenotype, and select bulls with the right combination of traits to match the cow herd. The end result? Desirable cattle that you and your customers can appreciate.

In the age of data, I am often reminded that breeding cattle can be more of an art than a science. If it were as simple as matching up some numbers to produce the best animals, then the true value of a great stockman would not exist. Because of all the information that we can track on paper, breeding decisions too often are made on EPD traits alone. Phenotypic traits, like shoulder and hip structure, seem to get overlooked or neglected. Sometimes it can be as easy as making your breeding decisions while in the pasture as opposed to sitting at a desk viewing a computer screen.

I’m not promoting just going off of what you see. A good herdsman will use all of the information available, including EPDs, pedigree and a phenotypic trait evaluation. Great herdsmen will separate themselves by being able to prioritize each trait to come up with the best mating. Of course, luck and chance come into play, but a great herdsman can turn the odds in his favor. A great herdsman has a natural talent to take all of the information and turn it into a work of art, much like the great painter Leonardo da Vinci’s creation of the masterpiece Mona Lisa.

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Editor’s Note: Casey Jentz is the regional manager for region 4, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.Click here to find the regional manager for your state.

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