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Across-Breed EPDs Make Cattle-Breeding Decisions Easier

Here are the latest across-breed EPD figures for 18 breeds of cattle.

The table of adjustment factors to be used to estimate across-breed expected progeny differences (EPDs) for 18 breeds was presented at the recent Beef Improvement Federation’s annual meeting in Columbia, MO (Table 1).

Across-breed adjustment factors have been calculated for growth traits and maternal milk since 1993. Adjustment factors for carcass traits have been calculated since 2008; to be included, breeds must have carcass data in the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) database and report their carcass EPDs on an actual carcass basis using an age-adjusted endpoint. Producers can compare bulls of different breeds on the same EPD scale by adding the appropriate adjustment factor to the EPDs produced in the most recent genetic evaluations for each of the 18 breeds.

The across-breed EPDs are most useful to commercial producers purchasing bulls of more than one breed to use in crossbreeding programs. For example, in terminal crossbreed systems, across-breed EPDs can be used to identify bulls in different breeds with high growth potential or favorable carcass characteristics.

As an example, suppose a Short-horn bull has a weaning weight EPD of +19.2 lbs. and a Red Angus bull has a weaning weight EPD of +38.9 lbs. The across-breed adjustment factors for weaning weight (Table 1) are 20.6 lbs. for Shorthorn and -2.3 lbs. for Red Angus. The across-breed EPD is 19.2 lbs. + 20.6 lbs. = 39.8 lbs. for the Shorthorn bull, and 38.9 lbs. - 2.3 lbs. = 36.6 lbs. for the Red Angus bull. The expected weaning weight difference when both are mated to cows of another breed 
(e.g., Hereford) would be 39.8 lbs. – 36.6 lbs. = 3.2 lbs.

Most breed associations publish EPDs on an annual basis. These EPDs predict differences expected in performance of future progeny of two or more bulls within the same breed for traits including birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and maternal milking ability (as reflected in progeny weaning weights). Normally, the EPDs of bulls from different breeds can’t be compared because most breed associations compute their EPDs in separate analyses and each breed has a different base point.

The across-breed adjustment factors allow producers to compare the EPDs for animals from different breeds for these traits; these factors reflect both the current breed difference (for animals born in 2008) and differences in the breed base point. They should only be used with EPDs current as of July 2010 because of potential changes in EPD calculations from year to year.

It’s important to note that the table factors (Table 1) don’t represent a direct comparison among the different breeds because of base differences between the breeds. They should only be used to compare the across-breed EPDs of animals in different breeds. To reduce confusion, breed of sire means (i.e., when sires from two different breeds are mated to cows of a third, unrelated breed) between 2008-born animals under conditions at USMARC are presented in Table 2.

Adjustment factors in Table 1 were updated using EPDs from the most recent national cattle evaluations conducted by each of the 18 breed associations (current as of May 2010). The breed differences used to calculate the factors are based on comparisons of progeny of sires from each of these breeds in the Germplasm Evaluation Program at USMARC (part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service) in Clay Center, NE.

These analyses were conducted by USMARC geneticists Larry Kuehn ([email protected] or 402-762-4352) and Mark Thallman ([email protected] or 402-762-4261).

TAGS: Genetics