Kansas State University Experts Advocate for Data-Driven Sire Selection to Optimize Beef Production

By Trish Svoboda

In decision-making, gathering ample information is often crucial for charting the course ahead. According to experts from Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute, beef producers face a wealth of data when choosing sires, as discussed on a recent Cattle Chat podcast. They stress selecting bulls suitable for siring calves with first-calf heifers, ensuring the female offspring can serve as replacement heifers within the herd.

“When it comes to heifer matings, it is important to look at the potential sires’ calving ease direct EPD (Expected Progeny Difference), but I also recommend using a selection index as part of the sire selection process,” said Bob Weaber, K-State beef cattle geneticist and head of the Eastern Kansas Research Extension program.

He mentioned that selection indexes are constructed from various data inputs, providing producers with more comprehensive information compared to single-trait data points like EPDs.

K-State veterinarian Bob Larson agreed and highlighted that beef breed associations and artificial insemination bull studs offer this data to producers during the sire selection process.

“Each breed association has slightly different indexes, but they are similar, and for building matings to create replacement heifers, it is important to select a bull that is high for the maternal index,” Larson said.

When Weaber engages in this process, he utilizes searchable databases to input his criteria and sifts through the rankings provided to him.

“We begin by searching for the index representing the best-performing animals to fulfill the marketing endpoint, and then we refine that subgroup based on the single trait of utmost concern,” Weaber explained. “For instance, when planning matings for heifers destined to produce replacement heifers, we first prioritize the maternal index and then calving ease direct. This approach optimizes the most economically significant traits.”

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