Dr. Bob Weaber, University of Missouri Extension Specialist, who specializes in beef cattle genetics, gave a presentation on herd bull selection at the Red Angus Association of America convention on Sept. 15, 2010. In his talk, he interacted with the audience of mostly seedstock producers and commercial cattlemen, by asking questions in which many audience members answered by using keypads. Dr. Weaber then tailored his talk to the audience concerns.
The main topic brought forward? Bull selection. 
Dr. Weaber gave some pointers on becoming a good bull buyer for your herd. He suggested doing your homework beforehand by reviewing sale catalogs, choosing several bulls that appeal to you, and either showing up early for a sale or visiting a farm beforehand, so you can see the stock in person. He also recommended creating an ongoing relationship with your seedstock supplier, and openly communicating your needs and challenges with them. Having reasonable expectations of the supplier, keeping a defined breeding objective and being a person who seeks professional help and is a continual learner are also qualities that, according to Dr. Weaber, a good bull buyer should possess.
Dr. Weaber also discussed the benefits of crossbreeding during his presentation. He said that the trait which benefits the most from heterosis is growth.
“Hybrid vigor can improve weaning weight by up to 23 percent. Crossbreeding can also improve reproduction and cow longevity. Heterosis can mean higher revenue and lower costs for a herd,” said Weaber.
“You can gain $100 per cow per year by making smart crossbreeding decisions.”
When asked what genetic merit predictor is used most in sire selection, the audience chose EPDs and actual records.
Dr. Weaber said that EPDs are a very accurate indicator of sire predictions, seven to eight times more accurate than actual sire records. The audience was then asked which EPDs were most important to them when choosing a herd sire. Calving ease, weaning weight and stayability were the top three choices, in that order. It was also noted that producers in the audience would like to see feed efficiency being measured in EPD form.
Following Dr. Weaber’s presentation was a question and answer discussion on herd bull considerations. Participants included Jim McCann, a commercial producer from Miller, Mo., Monty Wheeler, a commercial producer from Bolivar, Mo., Jackie Moore, owner of Joplin Regional Stockyards, Mick Plummer, a commercial producer from Mountain Grove, Mo., Dr. Weaber, Lynn Pelton, of Pelton Ranches, Burdette, Kan., and Kirby Lane, of Neo-Sho Farms, Neosho, Mo. The forum was moderated by Dr. Gene Rouse, emeritus professor of animal science at Iowa State University.
The first question asked, “Why do you crossbreed your herd?” was answered by several. Kirby Lane said that he chooses to crossbreed because he “sees the crossbreds having less calving trouble.” Lane also noted that he uses a lot of different breeds and said it helps maximize good traits and minimize bad traits.
Lynn Pelton, who uses a Simmental/Red Angus cross on approximately half of his cow herd and a Simmental/Angus cross on the other half, said he crosses his herd this way because it’s what his customers want. Pelton also noted, “Keeping eye appeal is still possible when crossing.”
Weaber added in that what has motivated commercial producers to return to crossbreeding is decreasing inputs while planning to increase outputs.
Mick Plummer uses a Charolais/Red Angus cross, and added, “My cows must be endophyte-friendly. They must be able to perform on Kentucky-31 fescue, because I don’t change grasses.”
An audience member asked Monte Wheeler what changes he has made to his herd, now that he is retaining ownership and marketing calves on the rail. Wheeler said, “We cull the cows that produce lesser quality calves.” He added that there is additional value to his calves for being source/age verified and the bigger premiums offered for better grades.


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