Cattlemen across the nation are recognizing the role genetics play in increasing both quality and profitability of their cowherds. Breeders and industry professionals who attended the annual BrainTrust meeting in Denver, Colo., held during the National Western Stock Show, discussed the direction of the beef cattle industry and Red Angus’ impact on profitability.
“From a feeder’s perspective, producers want to market through quality-driven, branded product lines. Red Angus cattle have made me more money than other breeds, and it’s the end product that matters at the end of the day. Hide color isn’t important once the steak is on the plate,” said Eric Christiansen of Fort Morgan, Colo., a cow-calf operator and feeder who sat on the BrainTrust panel.
In addition to producing cattle with superior carcass traits, the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) “is recognized by the industry as being a breed based on data integrity and performance-driven production,” said Lorna Marshall, ABS Beef Sire Procurement Manager who also sat on a panel for the BrainTrust meeting.
An Early Vision of Industry Profitability
In 1954, the breed founders established the RAAA as a breed based on mandatory performance reporting of data for traits of known heritability and economic importance. This theme was intensified in the 1990s, as the Association implemented Total Herd Reporting that further increased the integrity of the cattle and the breeders.
At BrainTrust, Red Angus breeders discussed options to increase the percentage of Red Angus genetics in the nation’s feeder calf population, which could result in a greater number of commercial beef cows bred to Red Angus bulls.
Economically Relevant Traits (ERTs)
Red Angus continues to improve selection tools for those traits that influence producers’ bottom lines. Key among cowherd-building traits is Stayability, or the genetic predisposition for an animal’s daughters to stay productive past six years of age.
RAAA is continually looking for selection tools that positively impact cowherd Stayability; foot structure and udder soundness are both indicators of Stayability.
“One of the first steps is for producers to accurately score udder conformation,” said Larry Keenan, RAAA director of breed improvement who facilitated the BrainTrust meeting. Recently, RAAA introduced an udder scoring protocol for its seedstock producers, which provides the tools to evaluate the udder quality of each cow within 24 hours postpartum.
Serving Red Angus Stakeholders
Red Angus producers recognize that their success depends on the prosperity of the commercial producers who utilize Red Angus genetics, and they continually strive to find better ways to serve their stakeholders.
Total Herd Reporting ensures all progeny records are reported, increasing the reliability of a Red Angus animal’s EPDs. “We continue to incorporate relevant data to make the EPDs more reliable,” said Mark Enns, associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo. Enns was the third member of the BrainTrust panel.
Christiansen thinks the increased reliability of EPDs will help commercial producers make their seedstock selections. He cautioned not to include too much information, however. “Your average bull customer does not have time to study all the information in bull sale catalogs.” He recommended a simple format and one-on-one interaction to help customers make their genetic decisions.”
Last summer, RAAA combined databases with the American Simmental Association to calculate both breeds’ growth and carcass EPDs via a multibreed EPD model. Keenan explained that the combined database exceeds 9 million head with over a million common animals; the result being more reliable EPDs for both breeds.
“As we tell our Red Angus story,” said Keenan, “we need to focus on the strengths that define our breed – commercial marketing programs, the breed’s inherent reproductive and carcass characteristics, total herd reporting and genetic predictions to select for economically relevant traits.”
“These unique facets of Red Angus will be responsible for the future growth of our breed and the success of our commercial producers.”