Every number has a story: .51
I could have put up .46 or .43, the average marbling EPD (expected progeny difference) for current registered Angus sires and dams, respectively. But we reach a lot of commercial producers who are shopping for bulls.
And .51 is the average marbling EPD for non-parent bulls this fall, like the ones you’re bidding on and/or buying at private treaty across the country. This is not reaching for some shockingly high number, because the average EPD for Angus cattle born last year is .56 and the top 25% of all non-parent bulls today start at .66 with ribeye EPD at .65.
Believe it or not, some people consider marbling controversial, especially if they don’t have at least average marbling in their herds. We’ve heard “too much marbling will wreck your cow herd,” and “the only way to get above-average marbling is single-trait selection.” Research disproves both objections.
Good thing, too, because most consumers love marbling.
Looking at data from 15 years ago, an Iowa State University study said, “The current trend to rewarding higher quality-grading cattle will have the added benefit of reduced cow cost.”
CAB has on several occasions helped sponsor research on the impact of selecting for superior marbling. The most recent of those was just a couple of years ago by Virginia Tech animal scientists Jason Smith and Scott Greiner, noting the data say we can have above-average marbling and above-average maternal traits in the same herd.
Some folks point out known genetic relationships to justify a fear of keeping up with at least average marbling. It is antagonistic to muscling and carcass weight, for example. True of course, but lighter birth weight and calving ease are also antagonistic to those and other growth traits. Focused selection overcomes the natural antagonisms.
Others may say marbling is “only” 45% heritable, so environment and management are more important. If they ever try to feed more marbling into a steer that lacks the genetic potential, they see how nature works, however. What it really means is that you have a 55% chance of messing up the potential, but you have 100% chance of falling short of average results if you start with less than average potential.
I like the way Dick Beck of Three Trees, Sharpsburg, Ga., puts it in perspective:
“Of course we should keep working on the cowherd, but why would you walk away from making progress on a trait that’s easily improved? To say I’m going to improve 90-day conception rate by 5%, that is a tough, tough goal. But improving the quality grade of my next calves by 5%, I can do that in my sleep, and it doesn’t take away from my efforts to improve on those tough goals.”
So let’s not be antagonistic to selection for marbling. Embrace the taste! Let’s keep building tomorrow together.
We’re more than halfway through our month-long blogging adventure, “Every number has a story.” Catch up here:
Day one: $6.93
Day two: 2.5 million
Day three: $204.10
Day four: 12.1 million
Day five: 11/13
Day six: 8 million
Day seven: 139
Day eight: $39
Day nine: 30.1%
Day 10: 120 million
Day 11: -2.26
Day 12: 12 to 15 minutes
Day 13: 30%
Day 14: 32 million
Day 15: $154,000
Day 16: 118