Avoid Misuse of Ultrasound Data
With the 2006 spring bull sale season still fresh in your mind, stop and think about how beef bulls are marketed. Think about the newspaper and magazine advertisements for bull sales. Think about the sale bills posted at the local feed store.
Those print ads and posters usually feature pictures of a few individual bulls. Beneath each photograph is a caption describing the pictured animal. A description might state, “This top son of ‘Superbull’ had a weaning weight of 636 lb.” Another sale bull might be described as, “an exceptional prospect with a scrotal circumference of 35 centimeters.”
According to Auburn University Animal Scientist Lisa Kriese-Anderson, potential bull buyers are frequently lured by tempting descriptions based on individual weights and measurements. Big numbers, she warns, might seem impressive but producers need to ask, “Compared to what?”
Kriese-Anderson says the same warning applies to the individual ultrasound carcass measurements frequently featured in bull sale advertisements or catalogs. As marketing programs that reward beef quality have developed, many producers have sharpened their focus on genetic selection for carcass merit. Many seedstock breeders have adopted the use of ultrasound technology to measure carcass composition traits — ribeye area, fat thickness and % intramuscular fat — of sire progeny. These live animal measurements, as predictors of carcass merit, are used with actual carcass trait measurements from fed and harvested progeny to create the expected progeny difference (EPD) values used in genetic selection of seedstock.
However, Kriese-Anderson fears too many seedstock breeders, sale managers and consultants are misusing ultrasound data in their marketing efforts. Individual ultrasound measurements are touted in the advertising and emphasized during a sale. The auctioneer may boast about a certain individual’s 14-inch ribeye area (REA), or rave about another bull’s 4% intramuscular fat (IMF) measurement. Some breeders and marketers probably don’t realize they are doing their customers and themselves a disservice.
“The raw data is often used for marketing, but it shouldn’t be,” explains Kriese-Anderson. “Individual ultrasound measurements are useful, but only for comparisons within the group the animal came from. Individual values offer no comparison to an animal’s contemporary group or the breed.”
According to Kriese-Anderson, every weight or measurement of an animal is an observation of its phenotype. However, phenotypic traits are the result of genetics and environment. Proper genetic evaluation requires consideration of how well animals performed in comparison to their herdmates raised under the same environmental conditions. Proper contemporary groups should be of the same breed composition, same sex and similar age, but they should also be raised under the same management.
Ultrasound data is most useful for helping rank sires or bloodlines with regard to particular carcass traits. “But it must be put in a comparison mode,” says Kriese-Anderson, “as a ratio or EPD.”
When the data is submitted to a breed association, it contributes to the calculation of carcass trait EPDs. The various EPDs presented by breed associations are the best tools for basing seedstock selection decisions, insists Kriese-Anderson. Carcass EPDs for yearling cattle take into consideration the individual animal’s ultrasound performance and its pedigree (parents’ performance). EPDs, for all traits, offer the best overall comparison of animals within a breed.
If carcass EPDs are not available, in-herd ratios for carcass traits are the next best thing. They create a ranking of individuals within a contemporary group. However, ratios from one contemporary group cannot be compared with those of another group. Ratios are better than nothing, but EPDs are best.
Kriese-Anderson says seedstock breeders can help maximize the accuracy of ultrasound carcass EPDs by following these recommendations:
- Take ultrasound measurements at the same time yearling weights are recorded. Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) guidelines recommend taking weights and scanned measurements at 335-395 days of age.
- Measure the entire contemporary group, using a certified ultrasound technician.
- Report all data, or average values for the group will be incorrect and distort rankings.
When attending a sale where both actual ultrasound measurements and carcass EPDs are provided, Kriese-Anderson advises potential bull buyers to compare both forms of information. Close similarity suggests accuracy.
The bottom line, says Kriese-Anderson, is that ultrasound data is like any data. It must be used correctly.
Foot-and-Mouth Disease Spreads in Vietnam
According to Ann Bagel, Meatingplace.com, Vietnam’s agriculture ministry has announced that foot-and-mouth disease has spread to 30 of Vietnam's 64 provinces and cities in recent weeks.
The ministry says that almost 27,000 pigs, buffalos and cows have been infected across the country, and more than 10,000 have been culled so far this year.
U.S. Concludes Primary Negotiations with China
A delegation from the U.S. and Chinese governments has completed primary negotiations to establish a protocol for the resumption of U.S. beef sales to China.
"We've made considerable progress with China during these discussions to reopen their market to U.S. beef and we will meet again soon to conclude the talks," said Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services J.B. Penn. "We also developed and completed a memorandum of cooperation that provides a basis for addressing food safety issues on an ongoing basis."
Comments Sought on Grass Fed Standard
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a proposed minimum standard for grass (forage) fed marketing claims. The standard, when adopted, will become the U.S. standard for grass (forage) fed claims.
Increasingly, livestock and meat producers are using production and/or processing claims to distinguish their products in the marketplace. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its voluntary certification and audit programs, verifies the accuracy of these claims. The proposed standard will establish the minimum requirements for those producers who choose to operate a USDA-verified program involving a grass (forage) fed claim.
Comments must be received on or before Aug. 10. For submittal instructions and information about the minimum standard, visit the USDA AMS Web site.
Growing Iowa’s Cattle Industry;
Conference Set for June 5
The Value Added Agriculture Program and Iowa Beef Center, both of Iowa State University Extension, will host “Growing Iowa’s Cattle Industry: Ethanol, Opportunities, and Economic Development” on June 5 at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Building in West Des Moines.
The conference will assist lenders, economic development leaders and producers in exploring ways to work together to expand Iowa’s cattle feeding industry.
Registration is $40 before May 30 and $50 after May 30 or at the door. For more information, visit the Iowa Beef Center Web site.