Isa Informer Newsletter

From the Fall 2006 issue of the Isa Informer

Over-selecting for growth traits

I enjoyed your two-part article on the declining supply of high-grading beef carcasses. One unanswered question persists. If our nation's herds are becoming predominantly black Angus as they are here in the north central states, then why has the percent choice dropped from 94 percent in 1986 to a paltry 57 percent in just 20 years? A major economic signal has been to get our herds black-hided and producers have responded to that signal. Black Angus is supposed to be the breed of choice for quality grade (just ask CAB) and has largely displaced most continental breeds in the same time frame.

The most obvious answer that wasn't mentioned is that the vast majority of Angus bull breeders are selecting for growth characteristics (pounds) to the exclusion of other economic and environmental traits. Pounds are king! So, how does the commercial cattleman select for ease of calving, good grading, good yielding, smaller frame size, good udders, and a host of other factors in a single bull when the majority of Angus bulls are coming from a dozen or so family lines and are quite homogenous in characteristics? Are we going to spend the next 20 years getting back to where we were? And, by the way, our cattle are predominantly black Angus.

—Lynn Woodard, Tie Siding, WY

From Western Livestock Journal "Letters"—March 27, 2006