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Genetic merit scorecards provide commercial producers ease of mind

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Producers implement a significant amount of money when buying bulls and artificially inseminating cattle, anticipating the investment will pan out. With genetic merit scorecards, producers can have confidence in knowing their choices in genetics are paying off within their herd.  

On a recent Working Ranch podcast dated Feb. 24, American Angus Association (AAA) Representative Troy Marshall evaluates the benefit of genetic merit scorecards and discusses how the tool can have an impact on commercial herds from both an economic and production standpoint. 

How scorecards work 

Genetic merit scorecards, introduced for the Angus breed, calculate expected progeny differences (EPDs) on a set of calves for commercial producers. Marshall emphasizes the process of getting a scorecard on a pen of calves is simple, only taking herd bull batteries and historic information a producer might have into consideration.  

“We get a score for feedlot ($F), grid ($G) and beef ($B) with 100 being average,” says Marshall, noting the scorecard allows buyers, or those upstream, to understand the value of the genetics for a pen of calves, as well as the ability to rank cattle accordingly. 

Marketing and benchmarking 

Scorecards allow buyers a glimpse into the performance side of the calves, giving them an idea of what their ability may be. Marshall explains, “This gives buyers an objective way of knowing the genetic potential on a set of calves.”   

Additionally, the scorecard allows the buyers to differentiate between two sets of calves.  

From a producer’s standpoint, when working with the association on getting scorecards for their calves, the association also returns the favor. The AAA will help market the producer’s calves through an e-mail listing, social media and on specific websites.  

The scorecard also serves as a benchmark tool for producers.  

“Scorecards enable a producer to know where they are from a genetic standpoint,  relative to other cow/calf producers in the industry,” Marshall notes.  

With the rate of change seen within the industry, scorecards allow producers to keep up with the pace of genetic progression. It simply allows the producer to know where they are with their herd, gives them a good idea of where they are going with the herd and allows them to see any shortcomings from a benchmark perspective.  

Marshall notes knowing the producer’s benchmark is an important marketing tool as well. 

 Higher premium at market 

The AAA collected data on 135,000 head and tracked the cattle’s performance on their perspective ranches. The AAA saw correlation using the scorecard for predicting phenotype and performance of the cattle in the feedyard.  

“We’ve been looking at the premium data, and we are seeing producers who use genetic merit scorecards tend to be more progressive and are receiving a fairly significant premium in the marketplace,” shares Marshall.  

The AAA saw a significant premium difference when they split 20,000 Angus-sired calves, selling on video, into top and lower sections based on genetic merit score. The top 50 percent received a premium of a little over $12 per hundredweight (cwt) or $80 more per head than the lower 50 percent.  

Benefiting small producers 

Genetic merit scorecards help improve a producer’s program by highlighting certain areas which may be below score average. Marshall explains if producers dislike their score, they need to consider the quality of genetics on the bull’s side.  

“Picking cattle that are in the top percentage of the breed for growth, marbling, ribeye size and feed efficiency is going to be the key to driving those genetic merit scorecards on the terminal side,” shares Marshall. 

 Producers benefit mostly from looking at their breed’s percentile charts. 

Marshall shares focusing on cattle with the $B, combined value ($C) and $G EPDs in the top 20 to 25 percent of a breed will shift the scores over time.  

The AAA can collect data on crossbred cattle, not just purebred Angus, notes Marshall.  

“We can utilize the other breeds and information – we just need to know their registration information so we can compare them in the database,” explains Marshall.  

The genetic merit scorecard isn’t about one breed or the other, but rather identifying superior genetics and characterizing them to help buyers decide how and where the pen of calves will fit into an operation.  

Adding the scorecard into a producer’s toolbox isn’t going to promote an improvement overnight, but in the long run, genetic merit scorecards are a tool destined to pay off. 

 “The value of good genetics and good management doesn’t go away within the marketplace,” says Marshall.  

For smaller operations, using scorecards allows them to compete with bigger operations. The scorecard lets small producers capture more value, allowing them to group and combine cattle and feed them towards consistent outcomes.  

As more producers use genetic merit scorecards, the AAA is able to add more data, which in return will make the scorecards more common, and buyers will become more comfortable using the scores. 

Delcy Graham is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to  

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