From a seedstock producer’s perspective, it can be much more difficult to create a reliable composite compared to a purebred bull.

“I have 27 years of objective breeding decisions that harness the power of the AAA [American Angus Association] database,” says Brian McCulloh, Viroqua, Wis. The registered breeder, who makes 350 of those decisions each spring, says the predictive power is strengthened by the broad use of artificial insemination (AI) by Association members, who submit within-herd data that ties all animals together.

“Simply put, I am not comfortable ‘experimenting’ with data from other breeds to create a composite bull for our commercial customers. I have more confidence predicting the outcome of our pure line Angus bulls,” he says. 

The Angus database updates weekly with more than 20 million performance measures and 17 million pedigrees. That data volume explains why, after dabbling in the composite market to try offering customers an outcross, McCulloh abruptly stopped.

Using the MARC across-breed EPD (expected progeny difference) adjustment factors help in comparing data, Callahan says. “But there is still a little bit of an unknown as to where that animal is going to come out.

“The purebred cattle evaluations give you better insight in terms of predictability of individuals and their offspring,” he says. Genomically-enhanced EPDs hone that ability. “You can make more progress – because you have greater access to performance information – than you can in most crossbreeding operations, unless they’re extremely well designed.”

To date, the DNA technology can only effectively sort out straightbred populations, he adds.

“That precludes it from being useful in composites and crossbreds,” Callahan says.

When selecting hybrids, commercial producers may face another challenge: “There’s an increasing need to purchase bulls in volume that provide both uniformity of calf crop and deliver on the various traits of interest,” Speer says. “Commercial bull buyers have access to larger sale offerings when shopping for Angus bulls compared to other breeds.”

Purchasing siblings in bulk is routine.

“That opportunity doesn’t exist when considering composite bulls,” he says.

Callahan doesn’t dispute the advantages of genetic diversity, but says he’s concerned with those who are “crossbreeding just for the sake of crossbreeding.”

His typical composite customer is in a terminal program, purchasing rather than raising replacement heifers. Otherwise, many have switched back to straightbreds.

“They really enjoy the uniformity of their calf crop and the predictability in their genetics,” he says.

There are no shortcuts to that.