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Cow Herd Efficiency & Live Animal, Carcass & End Point Committee

Cow Maintancence Energy Requirements

by Mathew Elliott, associate editor, Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 29, 2010) — John Evans of SWB Consulting Inc., took off of his figurative consulting hat for the day and put back on his animal breeder hat to speak to the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) crowd about evaluating cow maintenance requirements.

“We take forage and turn it into protein,” Evans said, noting an advantage compared to competing proteins that have the upper hand in converting grain to gain. “We have the ability to take something with low quality and turn it into something that is very high quality by handling it correctly."

Encouraging producers to consider their clients' profitability as well as their own, Evans suggested that beef producers match biological type with the production environment.

“When you look at a mature cow,” Evans says, “we ask her to do a lot. We ask her to grow, produce a calf, rebreed, survive in whatever environment we place her in and, oh yeah, be low-cost through all of this.”

Evans noted that 70% of feed input costs are used for maintenance energy; and 40%-60% of a cow’s total costs are for feed input costs. That, he said, brings us to a need for an expected progeny difference (EPD) to account for maintenance requirements.

Evans' early research focused on an EPD for mature weight, a relatively easy trait to measure, as an indicator of maintenance costs. But then Evans asked what the economically relevant trait (ERT) would be for the new EPD. Can it separate cost and revenue or determine the cull cow salvage rate vs. cow costs? After the research, it was determined to do maintenance EPD.

The difficult part of maintenance EPD is that maintenance energy requirements differ among breeds.

Evans says the benefits to this new EPD is that it would be able to select animals with lower feed costs, lower annual costs, select the environment the producer is in, and be a strait-forward value estimate.

While working on his doctoral degree at Colorado State University (CSU), Evans worked on how to express the maintenance EPD. It was decided that mega-calories per month would be how it was expressed for the time being. Evans said that he was still open to changing this if there were a better way presented to him.

A lower expressed EPD is better according to the current scale with higher expressed EPDs meaning more maintenance would be required among progeny. Ranges currently from –19 to a 20, with 4 being the average.

“Now we are not just trying to get everything to small cattle that do not milk,” Evans said. “We are trying to characterize the economically efficient cattle out there while avoiding single-trait selection. To continue to make this more efficient, we need more mature weight scores and more BCS scores taken at mature weight."

Themed "Gateway to Profit," the 2010 BIF Annual Research Symposium and Annual Meeting was hosted by BIF June 28-July 1 in Columbia.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship by BioZyme Inc. through its significant gift to the Angus Foundation. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus e-List, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the API Virtual Library.

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