AHA Introduces Maternal Advantage Program
May 3, 2018
As the bull sale season winds down, the focus is now on females. Did she calve within the appropriate window? Is she milking well? Is her calf growing? What should she be bred to? Is she a keeper or on the cull list? Ultimately, these decisions determine the profitability of the producer and how long the cow stays within the herd.
For Hereford producers, a new tool has been released form the American Hereford Association (AHA) that could better measure maternal traits and benefit commercial cattlemen as they make genetic selections.
Announced on April 24, 2018, the AHA Maternal Advantage Program is a genetically verified program that cattlemen can use to identify premium replacement heifers.
"We are very excited to add the Maternal Advantage Program to our list of tools at AHA," said Trey Befort, AHA director of commercial programs. "In developing this program, we have focused on finding new ways for commercial cattlemen to use Hereford genetics to add value to their cattle."
Befort says the program can be used in two ways. First, it can be utilized as a marketing tool.
"To be eligible, females must be sired by registered Hereford bulls that rank in the top 50 percent of the breed for the Baldy Maternal Index (BMI$) if used on English-based females or the top 50 percent of the breed for the Baldy Influence Index (BII$) if used on Brahman-based females," said Befort. "Both of these maternally-focused indexes identify the bulls that will be profitable when used in a crossbreeding scenario with Angus- or Brahman-influenced females. This is a good marketing piece that cattlemen can tack onto their lot to show customers that their females have been sired by superior genetics."
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While the program is still in development, Befort says one way producers can help promote that their females are qualified with the Maternal Advantage Program is through educational materials AHA will provide to sale barns, video sales or auctioneers. Additionally, seedstock producers will be able to denote which bulls in their sale catalog qualify for this program with a logo or tag to alert their customers of this eligibility.
"Seedstock producers will also be able to market their bulls in a way that adds value by identifying which bulls in their arsenal qualify for the program," said Befort. "We'll provide catalog resources and marketing materials they can set out to further explain the program and its merits to their customers."
The second advantage of this program, Befort says, is commercial cattlemen can use this information to select and retain females that will be the most profitable within their cow herds.
"This could be a great selection tool that allows them to make educated decisions on which females they are keeping or culling," said Befort. "This, along with paying attention to the BMI$ and what that encompasses, can really add to the information a producer can evaluate as he makes selection decisions."
The program looks promising for Hereford breeders; however, this early in development, it may be a little while before they take advantage of this opportunity.
"We will definitely be looking at this program to help our customers purchase bulls that can go on to raise replacement heifers and better merchandise females with the reputation of an above average Hereford cross," said John Ridder, owner of the Ridder Hereford Ranch in Callaway, Neb. "In our part of Nebraska, we have 20+ customers who are still raising straight Hereford commercial cattle; they know what their cattle can do, and so often, this straight Hereford females top the market versus anything else. For other commercial cattlemen, they want that base cow that has that Hereford influence, so they can breed them black and still have that solid foundation that the Hereford genetics has to offer."
With the Maternal Advantage Program, Ridder says he'll be able to help his customers add value to their future calf crops, but with the bull sale season coming to an end, he anticipates it won't be until next year that producers will really start utilizing this valuable resource.
"This program will certainly help identify the premium cattle within the breed, and instead of being at the mercy of the packer, a value-added program like this can help producers — both seedstock and commercial — control their own destiny," added Ridder. "Choosing genetics that you know will perform can add to the bottomline, whether that's by retaining higher quality females or selling heifers that have the added backing and reputation of this Hereford program."
For commercial breeders who have several bulls in one pasture, they can still participate in the program, says Befort.
"Say somebody is using five Hereford bulls; we obviously don't know which cows are sired by which bull," said Befort. "Each individual bull doesn't need to rank in the top 50 percent to qualify for this program; however, as a group, the average must rank in the top 50 percent of Hereford bulls."
According to AHA, "Cattlemen who take advantage of the program will reap the many benefits offered by the AHA. Not only will they have added hybrid vigor in their operation, they will also have access to a sire EPD summary, added market exposure, replacement selection tools, genetic improvement tools and access to AHA resources, marketing and staff."
"Without a doubt, using Hereford genetics, especially those verified to be above average, in a commercial cattle operation will help producers maximize the value of their black-based or Brahman-influenced cows by improving fertility, feed efficiency and conversion, longevity and docility — all traits that the Hereford breed excels at," said Ridder. "With each selection of a Hereford-cross cow, you increase your net income by having her stay in the herd longer. Replacement costs go up each year, so having a program that helps verify which ones will perform well and stick around will definitely benefit producers. These genetic selections won't just benefit the first cross, but will carry on from generation to generation, as well."
"I'm sure we will also participate and encourage our customers to do the same," added Cyndi VanNewkirk, owner of VanNewkirk Herefords in Ogallala, Neb. "We are always looking for ways to help our customers sell their heifers and steers for more money. We've had tremendous luck helping our customers sell their females out of our bulls already. There is a big demand for top notch maternal heifers out there, and we've been able to market our customers' heifers through our big data base of customers."
"Seedstock producers who are going above and beyond to add value to their customers' calves will be successful in the long run and will create brand loyalty because of it," said Befort. "We really hope breeders will take advantage of this program, along with AHA's other beneficial tools for marketing Hereford cattle."
By using a simple form found at hereford.org/maternal-advantage/, producers can list the sire information, management details, sale and delivery dates and number of females for AHA to review. From there, Befort will contact producers and provide the supplemental materials needed to make retention or sale decisions.
"It's a quick form, and if commercial producers have purchased bulls this spring and want to see if they qualify for this program, it doesn't take long for us to review and get back a sire summary of information to see if they are eligible or not," said Befort.
Befort can be contacted at 816-842-3757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.