Since 2004, the American Angus Association’s $Value indexes have been “the envy of the beef industry” according to Dan Moser, president of Angus Genetics, Inc.
As improvements in technology brought about changes in the cattle market and allowed livestock to improve phenotypically and genetically, Moser said the AAA recognized a need for change.
“Dollar value indexes allow us to build a tool to select for profitability for a certain breeding objective or goal,” said Kelli Retallick, genetic service director at AGI.
Retallick said the AGI team designed the $Value indexes 15 years ago to simplify the multi-trait genetic selection processes. Changes made to the indexes on May 31, 2019 will only continue to help cattlemen and women continue to achieve this goal, she added.
Since the updates, Retallick said AGI offers breeders the use of six indexes broken in two categories – maternal and terminal indexes. The indexes are $M (maternal weaned calf), $W (weaned calf value), $EN (cow energy value), $B (beef value), $F (feedlot value) and $G (grid value).
The first maternal $Value is $M. This is a new index, introduced to breeders at the end of May 2019. Retallick said $M replaced the previously used indexes $QG and $YG.
Retallick said $M will focus on the cow cost side of the index for producers. She describes this index as a summary of a female’s longevity.
Retallick $M will show ranchers the profitability differences from conception to weaning and will be used similarly to $QG and $YG. $M, however, offers twice the trait count as the previously used indexes.
“I think it’s going to be a wonderful index,” said Greg Schafer, an Angus breeder from Orlando, California. “I think $M is going to help breeders quite a bit if they take the time to understand what goes in it.”
The next maternal $Value is $W, what Retallick calls the “original maternal index.” Created in 2005, she said $W is fairly similar to $M, but $W analyzes four traits instead of the nine included in $M.
Retallick reminds breeders cattle will rank differently on the two indexes, as $W is designed to predict how much weaning weight a calf can put on based on its own ability to gain weight as well as pounds added from maternal milk.
Retallick said $W was revamped in the spring in order to more accurately represent the economics broadcasted by today’s cattle market.
$EN is the third and final maternal index. Retallick said this index shows ranchers how much they are saving per head per cow per year, and the index experienced no updates or changes in May.
The first of the terminal indexes is $B, a $Value Retallick said was designed to help identify animals capable of bringing in a profit during the post-weaning phase of the beef production chain. This index works to showcase individual animals exhibiting high growth and superior carcasses, she said.
“$B does a wonderful job of finding animals that are feed efficient, can do really well in a feedlot and hang well as a carcass,” Retallick added.
Stephen Miller, AGI genetic research director, said he and his team noticed “slight inaccuracies” in various genetic trends emerging in the Angus industry in recent years. He believes these inaccuracies stem from ranchers inputting large amounts of data of calves in the earlier stages of growth but much less when the animals reach maturity.
To counteract this inconsistency in the data, Miller said AGI created a new “self-replacing model” for $B that was launched at the end of May.
“The idea is you’re breeding for profitability in your commercial operation,” he said. “That’s what we made this model around.”
While Miller said the model will combine data more efficiently, the index itself is still highly correlated to the older model ranchers are familiar with. He said the modified $B will create a stronger relationship between EPDs and take dollar discounting into consideration.
Retallick said the need for this update also stems from breeders straying away from using the terminal index to drive carcass merit the way it was intended.
“New breeders have forgotten that $B was always supposed to be a terminal index,” Schafer said. “They’re finding animals might do great in a feedlot and hang well but might not be the best cows.”
The new $B will evaluate the same set of traits, but Retallick said it will have a heavier emphasis on being a terminal index.
The next terminal index, $F, aims to look at the performance of an animal individually in a feedlot setting. The index does not consider yield or quality grades premiums or discounts.
$G is the last of the terminal indexes and combines four traits to rank animals in their ability to produce calves that perform on a carcass merit grid performance.
Neither $F nor $G underwent any changes during the index revamp in May.
Schafer said the changes from May were miniscule, but he believes the updates will make it easier to identify genetically superior cattle. While he appreciates the changes that occurred in May, he said the most exciting change to the Angus industry is coming in June 2020.
Retallick said a combined index, $C, will merge data from both maternal and terminal indexes to allow breeders to evaluate many traits simultaneously.
“The indexes have proven to be valuable to both seedstock and commercial producers over the past 15 years, but this new index will prove to be revolutionary for the commercial cattleman specifically,” Schafer said.
Commercial ranchers do not have time to evaluate their cattle on an individual basis, Schafer said. He believes these cattlemen are driven by the desire to know if their herd is consistently moving in the right direction, and this index will answer that question.
$C will use a linear equation to predict livestock’s worth as the animal progresses through the entire production cycle, Retallick said. This will be the first index to combine the nine maternal and six terminal traits, she added.
Knowledge of these changes and $Values is key to ranchers using them to their full potential, Retallick said. She encourages all ranchers to evaluate which indexes are best suited to their own operation and its goals.
“Tailor your selection decisions to your individual breeding goals and finding the dollar values that fit your personal breeding objectives best,” she said.
Schafer said he works to produces bulls that rise to the top genetically and believes this new index will serve as a revolutionary tool for commercial cattlemen.