Freak out.

This is a lexicon of modern language that is applied to people who abandon balanced, conventional behavior for a particular extreme. The new hip hop culture. The hard drug scene. Communal living. Life on the streets.

You could be a trait freak if you have become over-focused on a single trait in semen selection, thinking that you'll still be OK on other traits. EPDs (expected progeny differences) have made this possible.

Follow me on a trip through a semen catalog that came in my mail last month. We have a choice of 61 bulls from five breeds. EPDs are shown for bulls of all breeds but carcass EPDs are shown for only one breed, a highly popular British breed. We'll limit our analysis to this breed, which gives us a pool of 32 bulls.

Do you hate calving time so much that you've become a birth weight freak? Let's look for bulls that are either minus on birth weight or no higher than +0.9. The good news is that eight of the 32 bulls fall in this category, averaging +0.26. The bad news is that these bulls fall short on the growth you'd choose if you were a growth freak. These bulls average only +29 on weaning weight and +52 on yearling weight. Their carcass EPDs are weak, also. For example, their scores for marbling and ribeye area are only +.035 and +.069.

But you're a pounds-is-pounds guy, right? A growth freak. You like your bulls' EPDs to be +40 and +70 or better on weaning weight and yearling weight.

It just happens that you, too, have your pick of eight bulls in this semen catalog. Their average EPDs are 43 and 77 for weaning and yearling weights, respectively. But you'd better be happy with low EPDs for ribeye area; they average only +.115. No freaks for ribeye marbling or carcass weight would buy bulls out of this group.

Yeah, you say, growth isn't the only way to get pounds. I'm a ribeye freak. Give me a ribeye EPD of +.30 and the pounds will come. Wrong, at least for the bulls in this semen catalog. You have a choice of three bulls, which average +.33. But the EPDs of these bulls average only +.27 for weaning weight and +54 for yearling weight. This wouldn't be nearly enough for a growth freak. And you really get hammered on the marbling EPD; these bulls average -.10.

OK, you're a marbling freak. You think that grid selling is the wave of the future and you would make sacrifices for high quality grades. You're looking for marbling EPDs of +.20 or better. Now, your choice of bulls is only two; one has a marbling EPD of +.28 and the other +.20. This time you take a big hit on the ribeye EPD, which is only -.145.

The reality of this semen catalog, and this is undoubtedly true of other catalogs, is that its bulls offer something for everyone but not everything for everyone. Interestingly, only one of the 32 bulls in this analysis appeared on more than one of the lists described above. This bull, which appeared on two of the four lists, might get some consideration from both birth weight freaks and growth freaks but not from freaks for carcass traits.

In society, freaks often see the error of their ways and go straight. That's a good idea in cattle breeding, too. The semen market provides plenty of opportunity to satisfy your primary focus without giving up much on other traits. Do your homework. Don't lock in on one semen catalog. And remember, most breed associations will help you find bulls that meet your selection criteria among members whose bulls are not listed in semen catalogs.

Artificial insemination is an important management tool but only if you apply it sensibly.

To contact Fred Knop, write Drovers or send e-mail to: