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The ubiquitous genetic influence of Angus means recent staff changes at the American Angus Association and Angus Genetics Inc. could cast a long shadow for genetic evaluation in the beef industry. This commentary lays out the concerns of some, followed by a response from the American Angus Association that the program remains uninterrupted, current and performing normally.
“Genetic evaluation for Angus and for the industry has been instrumental in breed improvement and beef cattle improvement,” says Jarold Callahan, president of Express Ranches, Yukon, OK. “I’m concerned that we’ve lost opportunity, even if the American Angus Association [AAA] continues doing what it has in the past. What none of us can know is what potential has been lost.”
Mark Gardiner, Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, KS, adds: “As a seedstock producer, I need accurate information to help our clients hit a profitable target. The biggest issue for us and our customers is whether we will be able to get genetic evaluation information going forward that allows us to create the cattle that make our customers money.”
Both are referring to the April dismissal of 12 multi-decade, industry-respected AAA employees who previously sent a letter of formal complaint to the AAA board citing concerns about association leadership. Among them were Bill Bowman and Sally Northcutt. Bowman was president of Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), the AAA subsidiary that conducts genetic evaluation for Angus and other breeds. Northcutt served as genetic research director for AAA and AGI.
Bowman and Northcutt built upon the breed’s historically strong foundation of performance programs and genetic evaluation. They captained its next chapter, incorporating genomic data into the breed’s expected progeny differences (EPDs).
Genomic-enhanced EPDs offer seedstock and commercial users of Angus — operations of all sizes – as much genetic prediction accuracy for young calves as if the calves already had seven to 20 progeny, depending on the trait.
On the outside looking in, severing ties with Bowman and Northcutt seems akin to trading Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen from the dynastic Chicago Bulls, and then telling the rest of team to go “win one for the Gipper.” Angus genetic evaluation will continue, of course, but some believe the departures create a kink in the thread of continuity — which frays confidence.