Expected Progeny Differences are under-utilized as a selection tool when producers purchase herd bulls. For some, the numbers are too confusing. Others base their decisions only on the bull’s physical appearance. EPD traits can be used to select for multiple traits and can improve both a terminal program and a replacement heifer pen.
Surprisingly, I still find that many producers do not use expected progeny differences (EPDs) as a primary selection tool for their bull. Many select their next herd bull based only on physical appearance or a perceived ability to perform, or low birth weight.
In other words, does he have a well-balanced body with plenty of muscling, yet look like he will be easy on calving? Several purebred breeders have said that the only question most of their customers have is "Is the bull calving ease?" These buyers typically complain that EPDs are confusing to use or that they don't work. With some basic knowledge, however, utilizing EPDs can be easy and beneficial to all cattle operations.
Typically, when a producer reports that EPDs don't work, it is usually because they selected a bull with the wrong expectations for a particular EPD. The first thing one must determine is in which direction, higher or lower, a particular trait is desired.
The following is a brief list of some EPD traits and the typical target direction for terminal production systems. Each breed association has numerous other EPDs they measure. The inclusion or exclusion of traits does not necessarily imply significance of a particular trait. However, the following list is common among most breeds and is important to consider in a terminal production system. A terminal production system does not retain and develop replacement heifers, and typically sells off the ranch to the next segment of the industry or retains ownership through the feeding phase.
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