BxD: Traits That Matter Most

News and Updates
Dairy farmers are most familiar with the traits and indexes for dairy sires. As more dairies invest in the beef x dairy (BxD) market and begin to tailor their programs to create the best calves for the market, understanding beef genetics, and how they meet the unique needs of your aligned buyers, is important. Expected Progeny Difference, more commonly referred to as EPDs, are equivalent to Predicted Transmitting Ability, or PTAs, in the dairy sire world. While some traits may appear to be similar in the way they are named, EPDs can be presented much differently for beef cattle, plus there are various considerations throughout the beef calf’s life that affect your breeding decisions.

By: Lauren Kimble, Manager of ProfitSOURCE® and Low Carbon Technologies Supply Chains, Select Sires Inc.


The Calving Ease Conundrum

We know a smooth transition period is key to maximizing milk in the next lactation. We will always make considerations for Calving Ease when selecting sires for the beef x dairy lineup. At the same time, we need to be cognizant of our partner calf buyer needs. There are challenges with the calves they call ‘itty bitties’ – the smallest of calves that tend to have higher mortality rates, or are poor performers at the very least. We can avoid creating these calves and still maintain smooth transitions by focusing on the appropriate Calving Ease EPDs.

Remember, a higher EPD for Calving Ease is better in the beef world! This is different than dairy PTAs, where Sire Calving Ease is expressed oppositely – percentage of difficult births – and therefore lower is better. Also worth noting is that we don’t need to select for extremely low Birth Weight when we know that the Calving Ease EPD accounts for both recorded birth weights and recorded calving ease scores, and therefore is a better reflection of calving ease. 

You may find that some sires meant for maternal needs in our native beef x beef market meet your customers’ Calving Ease expectations. But, they are meant to make mama cows, and not to produce impressive carcasses. ProfitSOURCE sires bring the best of both worlds and are specially selected to strongly represent our program, from dairy to packer! Our current Angus lineup averages in the top third of the breed for Calving Ease while still bringing terminal power, for peace of mind in the maternity pen and beyond.


Genetics and the Market

When it comes to the rail, quality is king right now. Quality Grade spreads at the packers are higher than ever, particularly between Choice and Select. Branded beef programs continue to desire more carcasses grading Prime due to surprisingly high and consistent consumer demand for high-quality beef. How can we influence quality grades at the beginning of the supply chain?

The Marbling EPD is the most heritable of all the carcass traits, meaning we can influence performance heavily just by selecting for the trait. Compared to available beef x dairy lineups, the ProfitSOURCE Angus sire lineup leads the competition in average Marbling EPD. Traceability of ProfitSOURCE animals from birth to rail has already begun to show us that this selection is paying off, with over 90% of lots reaching Choice or higher. This has been impressing folks up and down the supply chain and will create a consistent and increased demand for ProfitSOURCE program calves.

The ProfitSOURCE sire lineup is specially selected for a reason. Whether marketing through a partner program or selling locally, these tagged BxD calves are a reflection of these genetics. Ultimately, we must acknowledge that our beef value chain partners have unique wish lists for what genetic profile is most valuable to them. We can guide sire selection to align with their needs and help you create the desired calf - a calf that returns the most profit to your operation.

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