Lee Pitts: Cattle traiting
January 4, 2017
Expected progeny differences (EPDs) have done wonders in improving the quality of our cattle. My only problem with EPDs is there aren't enough of them for traits that I'm most interested in. I wish some professor or breed association would come up with the following:
GUMS EPD- Cows spend six hours every day eating and another eight chewing their cud, therefore dentition has more to do with profitability than traits we already have EPDs for. We desperately need an EPD that indicates the quality of the teeth so we don't end up with six year old cows runnin' on the rims. No one wants to pay more for high quality alfalfa with fine stems and soft leaves just because their cows don't have good choppers.
SLUT EPD- Who doesn't want their cows bred up fast? That's why we need a sluttability number that tells us which cows chase the bulls the minute they're turned out. This would steer us away from breeding highly moral cows that like to play hard to get, or are choosey about the bull they'll breed with. I don't want bashful heifers with that "come hither" look who play hide and seek with the bulls for four months. I want cows that will walk right up to the first bull they see and say, "Listen big boy, let's get this over with."
MPH EPD- On the ranches I've leased the cows had to be able to travel 20 miles per day just to be able to find enough grass to eat to maintain their poor body condition. Lazy cows with a low speed index that shade up, or lay around, are easier to steal too. This EPD could be easily measured by identifying those cows that are invariably fastest to the feed truck.
IQ EPD- This would be similar to a birth EPD where you don't want it too high to the point your cows are smarter than you. I prefer dumb cows who don't have any idea they'll end up as hamburger some day. If they're highly intelligent they'll hide in the brush like Arizona renegades and you never will corral them. No one wants cows smart enough to dodge a loop or drop a horn when your trying to rope them.
ILL EPD- Cattle have 22,000 genes and 80 percent of them are shared with humans and like humans, many cows are hypochondriacs. Medicine is expensive, veterinarians are often hard to find, and the government is now turning them into pharmacists. That's why we need to identify those cattle that never call in sick or loiter in the feedlot sick pen.
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OLD EPD- Professors say you should turn over generations quickly to make the most genetic progress. That sounds good but are those same professors going to help you calve out replacement heifers every year? Are they going to find cows to buy that are as good as yours and acclimated to your country for a reasonable price? As for me, give me cows that are ten years old with good teeth (see GUMS EPD), that know the country and have five more good calves left in them.
DOG EPD- Good cowboys are getting harder to find. This explains why some folks are paying $10,000 apiece for Border Collies that can do the work of three people. And you don't have to pay or mollycoddle them. We need a DOG EPD to identify those cattle that will work well with a dog. (For some ranchers the DOG EPD could be replaced with a YAMAHA or POLARIS EPD.)
UGLY EPD- I know we're not supposed to select cattle by how they look any more but darn it, it gets old listening to the insults about your hideous looking herd with their frozen ears, stumpy tails, white eyes, splayed feet, droopy backs and multiple brands.
WIFEY EPD- We desperately need to be able to identify those cattle that will charge the wife when she's trying to pull a calf or attempting to graft on a leppy. Who can afford to have the wife miss a day or two of chores? We also don't need cows that give too much milk so that the wife has to milk them out. Such cattle may discourage the wife from her enthusiastic participation in the labor force. (This may well be the most important EPD of all.)