To make more money, try selecting for profit. That’s what dollar-value indexes help cattle producers do.
“It’s probably the easiest way to practice multiple-trait selection,” says Megan Rolf, Oklahoma State University animal scientist. “It’s also a pretty easy way to select for profit, because we’re talking in terms of economic values, so they either have profit or savings associated with them.”
Commercial cattlemen who want to produce standouts in the feedlot and on the rail should look to the dollar-beef ($B) index, offered by the American Angus Association.
“It’s designed to aid in genetic decisions for post-weaning merit and carcass value,” says Sally Northcutt, genetic research director for the Association.
An updated technical summary shows the dramatic difference in progeny harvested 1997 through 2012, sired by bulls in the top 10% compared to the bottom tenth among registered Angus sires (see table).
“Selection of breeding stock based on a single trait is risky, as progress may come at the expense of others,” the Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) “Black Ink Basics” tech sheet says. “Using the breed’s top 10% of beef-value sires can produce calve with higher quality premiums, lower yield-grade discounts and better feedlot performance.”
It shows data to back that claim: Progeny from high $B sires had five times more Prime grading carcasses, while Standard carcasses were cut by almost two-thirds, compared to low $B progeny. Certified Angus Beef ® brand qualifiers increased more than 28 percentage points.
“People will ask the question,” Northcutt says, “can I really realize this difference in the feedlot and on the rail?” The top-vs.-bottom 10% comparison illustrates what’s possible.
Quality grade is not the only place the top group won out. High $B progeny had a 67-pound carcass weight advantage over low $B calves. Coupled with the grid premiums, that adds up to a $168.02 per-head advantage for the top group.
“The underlying economic assumptions are based on a three-year rolling average that represents the commercial cattle industry,” Northcutt says.
Improvements in Angus genetics, along with stronger grid signals, contributed to an $85-increase in the spread between the two groups, compared to a previous analysis in 2006.
“Quality has value in the industry and pounds have value,” Northcutt says.