The evidence can be found at any livestock auction-black is now the dominant color of beef cattle in the United States. And the influence of Angus genetics is visible at every sale and in every feedyard. The growing Angus influence on America's cow herd has reached the point where it should now be an industry concern.

While several popular breeds can provide various genetic qualities that help meet the demands of today's consumers, Angus and Angus influenced cattle have gained an unprecedented position in the market place. A recent study conducted for the American Angus Association confirmed the influence of Angus genetics. A survey of 400 commercial cow-calf producers with an average herd size of 117 cows and an average farm or ranch size of 1,627 acres found 59 percent of those producers say they have purchased Angus bulls in the past 12 months. That's up from 47 percent found in a similar survey conducted in 1998. Charolais purchases were made by 13 percent of this year's survey respondents and 8 percent answered Simmental. The 1998 survey put Charolais at 19 percent and Limousin purchases at 11 percent.

As you might expect, this preference for Angus bulls has had a dramatic impact on America's commercial cow herd. When asked what major breed or combination of breeds their cow herd was primarily composed of, 43 percent of survey participants answered Angus, 43 percent answered crossbred and 11 percent answered Charolais. Of the 43 percent of producers whose herds were identified as crossbred, 68 percent indicated Angus was represented in those genetics.

Clearly, the survey data suggest Angus has reached a dominant position in the American herd. Richard L. Spader, executive vice president of the American Angus Association, says "We feel the dominance of Angus genetics in commercial herds can be attributed to two things. The first being the success of several branded beef programs that identify their product as Angus, including the Certified Angus Beef LLC, and second, the predictable genetics cattlemen are able to find in the American Angus Association's genetic database, which includes more than six million individual animal records."

For Angus seedstock producers, and for commercial cattlemen producing Angus for a specific alliance or branded beef program, these are the best of times. Angus bulls bring top dollar at auction and in private treaty sales. Angus feeder cattle also fetch top dollar, often finding premiums of $5 to $8 per hundredweight.

Angus, certainly, has played a role in helping the beef industry stop the 20-year erosion in beef demand, and the American Angus Association has developed and paid for programs that have benefitted all beef producers. But despite those positive influences, the dominance of Angus genetics and the American Angus Association is now an industry issue.

Because of the influence Angus now has on our industry, one might argue the most important positions in the industry belong to Angus Association and Certified Angus Beef LLC leaders. And decisions made by the Angus Association's board of directors, which can have a dramatic influence on an industry dominated by Angus, make seats on that producer board as important as any on the Cattlemen's Beef Board or at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

There is every indication that the interests of the American Angus Association are similar to those of commercial cattlemen. But the dominant position Angus has created for itself means that it now also carrys a heavy burden of responsibility for the entire industry.