As we get into spring and most of you are focused on marketing your bulls, it is imperative we evaluate the quality of bulls we are sending out in the industry. At the January board meeting held in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), NALFâ€™s genetic consultant, Dr. Bob Weaber, made the profound statement that the U.S. beef industry is driven by seedstock producersâ€™ selection of bulls at weaning. These bulls make up the basis for the commercial industryâ€™s bull selection options and have an effect on the entire industry for generations.
Most of these selections are made at weaning so this might not be the time of year most of us think about bull selection, other than the selection of our own herd sires. However, if the breed is going to succeed in the commercial industry, we must focus on selection using all available tools at every juncture.
Currently, about 10,000 registered Limousin and Lim-FlexÂ® bulls are marketed every year and hopefully, they will all cover around 25-30 cows per year. This means the annual decisions of Limousin seedstock producers affect 250,000-300,000 calves per year if we donâ€™t include the effects of the daughterâ€™s progeny. As industry trends continue to move toward a smaller domestic cowherd, with increased demand through exports and world population growth, it is imperative we strive to place bulls in the commercial industry that will produce to meet the needs of the world. This requires bulls that combine calving-ease for a higher percent calf crop and growth for heavier weights at a younger age with quality carcass characteristics.
As you are sorting and cataloging bulls for sale this spring, the selection criteria from weaning time cannot be forgotten. The Limousin breed cannot afford to have bulls sold into the commercial industry just because someone is willing to buy them as bulls. Bulls that might have been docile at weaning may be flighty and harder to handle as they reach maturity. Bulls that were sound when they made it past the knife or the band may have structural issues that have only now become evident.
NALF is currently pursuing genomic technologies with IgenityÂ®. 50K SNP genomic panels will provide producers more accurate EPDs to use in their selection. This use of genomic panels and marker-assisted selection can yield EPD accuracy on a wide variety of traits that are both expensive and hard to measure with one test, even before they come off the cows. Hopefully, these will be available within the coming year and this fallâ€™s weaning selection will be the first for producers where they can select bulls for yearling, carcass and mature characteristics at that young of an age.
It is one of the toughest decisions a seedstock producer has to cull a bull that does not meet his quality standards after they have made the investment in time and feed and a producer is ready to write a check. But this is the time when it is the most crucial. By selling a bull that does not meet the standards you have set, you let out a product that it is hard to stand behind and puts your credibility at risk.
Some of you might be approaching breeding season. The same selection pressure must be applied to the replacement heifers that will be producing these commercial bulls. Docility, muscling, structural correctness and do-ability must be high priorities to make the right type of bulls. With the longevity Limousin possess, this might be the most important selection a seedstock producer makes. It also may be one of the most advantageous uses of marker-assisted selection, since females take many years to develop the EPD accuracy yielded by genomic panels.
The breed has turned a corner and feedlots are looking for hybrid cattle to fit their systems and needs with increasing feed costs. With the large number of British-influenced cowherds throughout the country, the time is ripe for Continental breeds to fulfill the needs of the industry. For the breed to take advantage of this opportunity, selection is crucial. We must only keep the best and cut the rest.