New cattle can improve herd performance

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – Beef producers approaching the next breeding season may want to make some changes in their herd composition, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialist.

“I think you have to clearly identify your production environment and your marketing objectives and then try to formulate a crossbreeding system that will include animals that can survive in that environment and be profitable in your particular marketing plan,” said Matt Spangler, UNL beef geneticist.

He suggests looking at existing herd composition and then choosing a sire breed that complements those cattle. The commercial cow/calf producer will want to take advantage of heterosis and crossbreeding, he said. For instance, a producer with Hereford-based cattle will want to choose a different breed. The new breed should help meet marketing objectives and enhance the quality of calves.

The best tools for choosing individual animals include EPDs and economic indices. Those tools really center on the genetic aspects of individual animals, Spangler said. Ratios and individual animal records contain the genetic information but also place heavy emphasis on the environment, so Spangler avoids them.

EPDs are not helpful in selecting a breed, Spangler cautioned, because EPDs from one breed are not directly comparable to those of another. The Roman L. Hruska U. S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center publishes an annual set of adjustment factors for comparing EPDs of one breed to another, but they’re not directly comparable.

Several breeds now publish relevant bioeconomic indices that multiply EPDs by an economic weighting. For example, if a producer plans to retain ownership right through the feedlot and sell on some kind of grid-based system, important traits would include yearling weight, carcass weight, quality grade and yield grade. Those traits would be included in the index and weighted by economic importance.

For more information go to Producers can find information there or they can type in a question and ask a specialist. Spangler also invited people to call him directly at (402) 472-6489 or email


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