A picture is worth a thousand words, unless those words ring false. Many times we find ourselves drawn to pictures, only skimming the text to follow. Most times this is not a problem, however, when it comes to the purchasing of bulls, it is always beneficial to look beyond the picture.

The cattle industry continues to change on a daily basis, tools and resources seem to abound and it can be difficult to sort through the piles of information that present themselves. For the past 30 years, Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) have been a staple tool within the cattle industry. Unfortunately, many producers shy away from using this scientific tool.

Extension Agent Craig Askim acknowledges that producers understand that pounds mean dollars. “What producers miss sometimes is that while a 500 lbs weaning may be the best they have had in years, using EPDs could potentially get them to 700 lbs. EPDs will help producers see beyond their current situation and into their genetic potential.”

EPDs can be quite intimidating and confusing for even the advanced producer. EPDs reflect numbers that potentially predict the genetic quality of the offspring from that particular bull. However, when producers are able to fully understand the components of an EPD, they will be surprised at their usefulness in helping narrow the field when selecting the next herd sire for their operation.Cattle

Expected Progeny Differences consist of a set of prediction numbers that are based on the averages of that particular breed. Information such as Birth Weight (BW), Weaning Weight (WW) and Calving Ease (CE) can all be found on a bull’s EPD. Each bred has their own predetermined set of averages that are only comparable to other bulls of that breed. It is important to understand the base averages of each breed before comparing bulls of different breeds.

NDSU’s Extension Service Livestock Management Team is currently working on the creation and organization of an EPD Awareness and Evaluation program that will educate producers on the importance of EPDs and more importantly the correct usage of EPDs and how they can increase your profitability and sustainability in your herd. “Using EPDs are a great way to help outline yours goals and objectives.” states NDSU Extension Agent Cole Rupprecht of Cass County.

A local producer recently stated that “I have pretty much had it with articles that say how important EPDs are. If we don’t know how to use them and what they actually represent, there is no use knowing how important they would be for my operation.”

Agents working on the program have the understanding that it will take practice to perfect the ability to correctly use an EPD. The program will strive to provide situations and hands on activity for producers to increase their skill. The goal will be for producers to leave with a deeper understand of the generic merit of their own herd, along with the recognition of their genetic potential.

To fully understand what Expected Progeny Differences can do for you take a minute contact your local Extension Office. Agents will be able to help you evaluate your herd on an individual basis and further your knowledge of EPDs and the role using them will play in your herd’s genetic potential.