Let's Talk EPDs: Angus with Chad Armstrong, Armstrong Angus

Ok folks! Let’s talk EPDs, on angus cattle. We asked Chad Armstrong, Armstrong Angus, to give us his thoughts on common things he sees with angus EPDs, what he looks for, and his thoughts on the All-Inclusive EPD! 


From Chad Armstrong, Armstrong Angus: 

First I would like to say that I think EPDs are a good tool and can add insight into the animals possible breeding potential, but I also feel that they have become too influential to many of us. I feel many people have learned to rely strictly on the EPDs for selection rather than looking at the individual animal and its actual performance. Most animals that are bought are bought at a very young age and have EPDs with very low accuracy (.05 to .35). With this low of accuracy EPDs can change quite substantially as the animal proves itself through its progeny. I will use the weaning and marbling EPDs as I feel that these seem to be important to my customers. 

 Based on the information from the Angus Association, an animal at .30 accuracy for weaning can change up to 12 lbs on its weaning EPD. As I looked through my last sale catalog I see that my lowest weaning EPD is +36 and my highest is +62. Based on the Angus Association's estimates each of these animals could change up to 12 lbs each ( I realize that most animals will not change this much but most will change some.) the light one could go up to +48 and the high one could go down to +50 a difference of 2 lbs, yet many people will not look at the low EPD bull and almost all will look at the high EPD bull. Based on the EPD inaccuracies and the possible change I feel people should be willing to actually look at the individual animals and possibly visit with the breeder or someone familiar with the animals personally for advice rather than not considering some animals because of low EPDs. As I look at the marbling EPDs of my sale bulls I see they range from mostly 0 to +.54. The Angus Association says that at .30 accuracy these animals EPDs can change up to .23. Again I realize that this is the extreme but these animals could go to +.23 for the low marbling bull to +.31 for the high marbling bull, a difference of .08. Again these bulls could possibly be much closer in actual production of their progeny than their EPD at purchase time indicates. As a breeder I tend to breed the high EPD bull something that I feel has way more performance in that trait than their EPD expresses. Some of my best producing females don't have really high EPDs and even at 15 years of age they still haven't had enough progeny to change their EPD very much. By the same token some high EPD females do not produce very well for me and yet their EPD can still be high. Once again I wish people would use EPDs as a tool rather than "the" tool for selection.

As for my thoughts for an all-inclusive EPD, I am against this. EPDs measure many traits and some are antagonistic to others. I might want a big framed animal and someone else might want a small framed animal. Which is better? I might want a big weaning EPD to sell more pounds of calf, and yet someone else might want a lower weaning EPD because they have poorer feed quality and their females might not maintain themselves and rebreed. The reason for different EPDs is to improve in whichever area you deem important to you. If people want to use EPDs as a selection they would be way better off educating themselves as to their meaning and use rather than find a simple answer. The simple answer will eventually create problems when you will overlook faults that you don’t want or overproduce above you management scheme. 

We are developing a 5 point system on our sale bulls which gives our own analysis on our sale bulls as to what we feel they will produce. We are doing this on many EPD traits as well as some personal traits that we feel are important to the low maintenance cattleman.  Our program is focused on not only production (pounds) but on low maintenance (low inputs, fertility, low cull rate and cattle that don’t need to be babysat or pampered). Disposition and cattle that can be worked easily are important to us.  

Be sure to check out their website for upcoming information on their sale December 11, 2019, click here!