Educators Corner
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Genetic Selections

Why Angus?


Cow Herd Benefit

Cows should do it all

Imagine a cow that’s a moderate-framed easy keeper, that raises a big, efficient calf and breeds back on time each year – all that and the calves consistently qualify for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

Cows that can do it all aren’t a figment of somebody’s imagination. They exist, and if you plan it right, they can exist in your herd.

Scott Greiner, Virginia Tech Extension animal scientist, along with graduate student Jason Smith, reviewed more than 70 articles on everything from heifer pregnancy and calving ease to milk production and maternal size. Their conclusion was convincing: Despite the popular myth, including carcass traits as part of your selection doesn’t lead to any decrease in maternal traits.

“Marbling has a very small, if not insignificant, relationship with most of the traits that we associate with cow herd productivity,” Greiner says. “You can have terminal traits and maternal traits, and they can coexist.”

It’s all about balance. That balance begins by picking a breed and then employing multiple trait selection. On average, British breeds like Angus combine maternal traits and ability to marble.

Including carcass traits
as part of your selection
doesn’t lead to any decrease
in maternal traits."

Even though management plays a large role, it all starts with genetics. Mark McCully, CAB’s vice president, production, says, “You can’t feed marbling into an animal. If the genetics aren’t there, the marbling won’t be, either.”

The good news? Marbling is a moderately to highly heritable trait, which means progress can be significant when selecting for it.

Notions that marbling affects puberty in heifers have been disproved. Also, there’s no evidence that high-marbling females will wean lighter calves or that marbling and pregnancy rates are related.

“Many of these theories about carcass and maternal traits have circulated for years,” McCully says, “but the reality is simultaneous improvement can be made for both carcass and maternal characteristics. Scores of real-world examples continue to confirm that.”

Read more about Smith and Greiner’s findings.