Dr. Bob Weaber Demystifies Sire Selection for Calving EaseTue, 21 Jan 2014 16:19:51 CST
Over the next several weeks, cow-calf producers will be going to bull sales as they prepare to rebuild their herds. Kansas State University Beef Cow Specialist Dr. Bob Weaber says one of the prime genetic traits producers place on the top of their lists of selection criteria is calving ease. He says there are a couple of ways to manage selection for calving ease.
“Particularly as we think about replacement females, we have two calving-ease EPDs. One is called calving-ease direct or, simply, calving ease. It describes the genetic variation in the ability of a sire’s calves to be born so it’s the direct component. But there’s also an important maternal calving-ease, typically either called calving-ease maternal or calving ease daughters or maternal calving ease. It describes the genetic component of a dam or a cow to give birth to her calves. So, as we think about building replacement heifers, we know that we’ll be able to control some portion of calving ease and dystocia by the service sires we select for those replacement heifers, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we can also augment calving ease by selecting for maternal calving ease in the bulls that we use to produce replacement females themselves.”
In thinking about service sire selection for first-calf calving ease, Weaber says, “When we do that, my typical recommendation is, depending on the breeds, somewhere around the top 20 or 25 percent of the breed makes those bulls what I call ‘heifer bulls.’ They have enough calving ease to be used with confidence on for virgin heifers or first-calf heifers. Bulls that are breed average, depending on the breed, may be closer to acceptable, but making sure we make a good selection decision, in fact, in almost all the breeds now, we can find combinations of exceptional calving ease with acceptable levels of or high levels of growth depending on what our strategy is. So, in my book there’s no reason not to select for pretty high levels of calving ease because that has really important economic impacts on our operation.”
Weaber says his minimum recommendation for calving-ease EPD in Angus bulls is seven or eight which equates to the 25th percentile. Other breeds will differ slightly in their EPDs, but Weaber says producers should shoot for bulls in the top 25th percentile.
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