There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding carcass traits in the Simmental breed. Whether it’s witnessing growth in the Carcass Merit Program (CMP) or watching the ASA Board of Trustees fund a research program spanning 6 years and $700,000, it’s evident the breed is committed to improving the end product value of Simmental and Simmental-influenced cattle. But why is the Association investing so much in these traits?
As beef producers, we are in the food industry. Regardless of your operation type, the cattle you raise will ultimately enter the food chain. Consumer demand for quality beef has only seen an increase over the years and it’s unlikely that trend will decrease.
Yes, seedstock outfits rarely reap the direct economic benefit of developing cattle that marble and grade above average; however, it is up to the seedstock industry to make the necessary genetic improvements for carcass characteristics. Marbling, ribeye area, fat thickness, and carcass weight all have an impact on a beef producer’s bottom line.
Fortunately, carcass traits are moderately to highly heritable and with even small amounts of selection pressure, progress can be made in relatively short amounts of time. I believe it is the job of every seedstock cattleman to be cognizant of carcass traits in every selection decision.
Unfortunately, developing accuracy behind carcass merit can be difficult. This is because the ability to predict carcass traits is tied to collecting actual carcass phenotypes. Ultrasound and genomics can help increase accuracy in unproven animals, but high accuracy-EPDs cannot be obtained without actual carcass records on progeny.
Circling back to the original question: why is the ASA investing so much in carcass trait prediction? The answer is that carcass phenotypes are the rarest form of data submitted. Actual carcass phenotypes on enrolled animals represent less than 1% of the annual phenotypes reported. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of seedstock operations do not retain ownership on their cull calves.
So what can you do as an ASA member to help bolster ASA carcass predictions?
1. Retain ownership on your cull calves and submit post-weaning data including actual carcass records.
2. Enroll your commercial customers who retain ownership in the ASA Total Herd Enrollment commercial option.
3. Take part in the Carcass Merit Program (CMP).
a. We are always looking for new herds willing to be cooperators on the project.
b. Identify bulls who may be a fit for the program by nominating bulls with strong post-weaning and carcass characteristics
4. Take part in the Carcass Expansion Project (CXP). ASA will pay for genotypes on sire-identified terminal calves in exchange for carcass records.
These efforts will greatly bolster the ASA genetic evaluation for carcass traits. The ongoing research projects (CMP & CXP) are designed to make lasting improvements to our genomic evaluation, so anyone who performs a DNA test on their animal will reap the benefit through increased accuracy gained on carcass traits. Carcass merit impacts your bottom line because it impacts your customers’ bottom line.