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BeefTalk: What Was May Not Need to Be What Is

BeefTalk: Brian McCulloh quote BeefTalk: Brian McCulloh quote
We need to constantly challenge ourselves and, as we do things, make sure they fit.

By Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Through the years of numerous opportunities to present information at producer gatherings, I can honestly say the hope was always that some learning would take place, but more importantly, some thinking. The thinking is what ultimately challenges us to evaluate, re-evaluate, change and start again.

"What was" may not need to be "what is." In other words, we simply need to constantly challenge ourselves and, as we do things, make sure they fit. In terms of cattle, the recent discussions of smaller-framed cattle were to get us to think and, from those thought processes, ask some good questions.

Based on those questions, we need to think through some answers. I received a very good response from Brian McCulloh based on those discussions. I would like to share his thoughts, as Brian obviously spent time asking some questions, but also proposed paths to solutions.

"I'm Brian McCulloh and we raise registered Angus. ... One of your last columns dealt with a pen of 3- to 4-frame cattle. … I think we need to be careful describing cattle simply by referring to them as a certain frame score. A more accurate description in the current world of beef genetics would be to describe their expected progeny differences (EPD) criteria. We have raised 4-frame cattle that were plus 80 pounds for yearling weight (YEPD) along with 0.3 for IMF [intramuscular fat] EPD and 0.4 for REA [ribeye area] EPD. That animal is much different than a 3- or 4-frame animal that is plus 35 for YEPD and minus 0.1 for IMF EPD and below breed average for REA EPD.

"As serious breeders, we can affect the mature size of our cattle by using objective rather than subjective genetic predictions. Too often I hear producers talking about 'those small-frame, low-growth cattle' or 'those high EPD, gutless, hard-doing, carcass cattle.' My point is that we should describe cattle by their EPD profile rather than their certain frame score category. EPDs are the best cattle selection tool available when used properly. We have made tremendous improvements in our cattle during the past 25 years when we have stayed focused on our breeding objectives, used EPDs properly and honestly evaluated our own cattle for their strengths and weaknesses. I believe frame score is overemphasized when referring to cattle and their performance potential. Smaller-frame is not necessarily good or bad and the same for larger-frame. EPDs will tell the more accurate performance prediction. …"

As Brian noted, we have some very good tools in the industry. Simply categorizing cattle in generic classes, such as small-frame or large-frame, does not provide solutions for productive cattle producers. Rather, they need to utilize the current tools to make work what their production units are trying to achieve.

Let's look again at those frame score 4 cattle Brian references. A plus 80 yearling weight EPD would place those cattle in the upper 35 percent of the Angus breed. A 0.3 IMF EPD would be close to the upper 15 percent and a 0.4 REA EPD would be close to the upper 20 percent of the Angus breed.

Now that is something to think about. All that growth, marbling and muscle packed into frame score 4 cattle. I would hope the thinking machines kick in and, as producers, a good conversation can be had about how cattle types fit individual production units. The discussion of smaller-framed cattle was put forth to have people think and convert those thoughts to facts and answers.

Brian did just that. In contrast, too many discussions have been held on cattle frame size, so we regroup, take a position and start firing. All smalls are not small and all larges are not large. We need to utilize the data to sort what is put before us and then match that sort to the markets we sell to. Thank you, Brian, for some good comments.

May you find all your ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at For more information, contact the NDBCIA Office, 1041 State Ave., Dickinson, ND 58601 or go to http://www.CHAPS2000.COM on the Internet.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Kris Ringwall, (701) 483-2348, ext. 103,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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