Just as spring is the typical bull sale season, the fall is full of opportunities to acquire high-quality females. Great bulls are backed by great cows and with embryo transfer technology, a solid donor can reap as much profit as an AI sire.
Whether you are looking for your next donor female, a quality show heifer or just a solid brood cow, there are a number of traits to evaluate and NALF has the performance, genetic and genomic tools to help.
The NALF website is full of useful information when evaluating or looking for your next great female. Between the information under the animal search, Focus Dam list, dam trait leader list and the sire/dam selector, you can find just the female to match your program.
The first and most accurate information under the animal search is the female’s most up-to-date EPDs. This is especially important on younger females that might have been run on the Limousin Profiler and have genomic-enhanced EPDs (GeEPDs). An animal with GeEPDs will have a “G” following the accuracy of its EPD. GeEPDs are especially useful when selecting younger females (<4 years old) who have limited accuracy through traditional means. When evaluating potential young (purebred) donor prospects this will be useful in avoiding potential flush failures, particularly as EPDs are becoming more important in the commercial cattle industry. When evaluating EPDs on potential purchases, it is useful to look at the NALF percentile rankings available with every sire summary on NALF’s website. EPDs are, by definition, the expected difference in that trait from a particular base year of cattle. Only by comparing animals to their rank within the population are you able to get a true sense of the value of that EPD. For example, a 50 WW (weaning weight) EPD seems high when compared to zero, but is only breed average for Lim-Flex calves. Also, on the animal search tool is a progeny look-up option that will display not only every progeny recorded with NALF, but also the MPPA (most probable producing ability) and average ratios for birth weight, weaning weight and yearling weight (B Avg Ratio, W Avg Ratio and Y Avg Ratio, respectively). MPPA is an important overall measure for females that takes into account her ability to produce milk and her genetic contribution to the calf. This computer screen will also show her age at first calving and average calving interval, which gives you a better understanding of the female’s fertility. If her calving interval seems too extended, be sure to inquire if she is part of an embryo transfer program, which we wouldn’t know by looking at this screen if her calves have not been recorded. Annually, NALF compiles a list of Focus Dams, which recognizes the most proven, fertile and productive cows in our breed. While outstanding cows can be identified after their first or second calves, the Focus Dam report requires a minimum of three calves from a cow to determine her regularity of calving and her ability to produce superior calves for weaning weight year after year. In addition, Elite Focus Cows are identified as cows with superior longevity having eight or more calves that qualify. Another important part of the report is the list of bulls that have sired three or more qualifying females. First, the qualifying female must produce her first calf before she is 26 months of age (762 days). She must then meet the required calving interval that accounts for the fact that some producers breed heifers to start calving a cycle before the main cow herd. The cow must then demonstrate her milk production and genetic superiority by having an average weaning weight ratio of 105 or above on her calves. Another tool that goes hand-in-hand with the Focus Dam program is the Dam Trait Leader list which identifies the top cows in the breed for every trait. This is a good list to research when looking for a combination production and EPD cow, or if you have a trait you are lacking in your herd. It is also a key place to look when you are marketing cattle, so you can highlight those individuals that lead the breed. Balance is also a key when it comes to cattle breeding and using NALF’s Sire/Dam Selector allows you to sort the entire NALF database for the animals that fit your breeding criteria. These tools are always available on our website and the NALF staff is here to assist you if you have any questions or difficulty with the system. At the end of the day, finding that next great one is about finding the animal that not only fits your system, but improves your system. Whether it is improving phenotype or increasing milk or marbling, a goal needs to be set for your purchase in order to best use your hard-earned dollars. There will be many great cows for sale this fall; the tools from NALF allows you to research an animal’s history, including her family history. As a young man growing up in another breed, cow families were particularly important and were highly propagated within herds to gain consistency in calf crops and the annual bull offering. The Limousin tradition of naming animals with the first letter of the year they were born in makes this more difficult but not impossible. As stated earlier, the best bulls come from productive cows and in the current commercial setting, with more producers keeping their own replacements, it is essential that we, as a breed, look to maximize the maternal characteristics that make our breed not only a great cross on the rail, but a great cross in the pasture.