The power and value of Genomic-Enhanced EPDS

March 2014

Spring is quickly approaching.  That means warmer weather and green grass is on the way.  For the cow/calf producer, it means that calving is in full swing (or about over for some) and bull buying season is here.

Each year bull buyers start searching for the next great herd addition that could dramatically impact the genetic potential of their cowherd for years to come.  To make that purchasing decision, a buyer sifts through a tremendous amount of information that is provided on the registered purebred bulls.  Buyers evaluate each potential bull on their appearance, performance data (birth weight, weaning weight, etc.) and their EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences).

EPDs are predictions of genetic merit for individual animals based on pedigree, animal performance, progeny performance and now genomic information.  Each EPD has an accuracy value (zero to one) associated with it that indicates how reliable the EPD is.  Therefore, an accuracy value of .05 has the potential for greater change than a value of .90.

A new tool for the purebred and commercial cattle producer is genomic-enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs).  What does this mean?  When DNA information is available for individual animals, that information is used to calculate and improve the dependability of the EPD value, with an increase in the accuracy value.

For young virgin bulls, adding genetic information translates to having performance data on seven to twenty progeny (depending on the trait), which increases the accuracy of the corresponding trait.  This allows seedstock producers to supply bulls with more reliable genetics that commercial bull buyers can buy with greater confidence.

For commercial bull buyers, that means nothing has changed, at least as far as how you select bulls. The EPD is the gold standard, just as it’s always been.   The GE-EPDs are more accurate.  Many beef cattle breeds (Angus, Gelbvieh, Charolais, Hereford, Limousin, Simmental, and others) have developed or are developing GE- EPDs for their producers and bull buyers to utilize in their genetic programs.

Therefore, give consideration to GE-EPDs whether you are producing the next herd bull or purchasing the next herd bull.  Utilize GE-EPDs when selecting your next heifer bull for more accurate calving ease numbers to reduce those unpleasant surprises of large calves.  Buying young bulls based on GE-EPDs for growth and gain can improve efficiency at a level of dependability that has not been possible before.  Capturing carcass premiums from offspring of young sires with GE-EPDs for carcass traits can add tremendous value for the added genetic information.

Source: David Hoffman, Livestock Specialist