With full-circle genetics, the future is now

Originally posted by Progressive Cattleman


Four years ago, Oklahoma rancher Tom Watkins bought his first genomically tested bull. With one look at the numbers from the 12-month-old bull’s genomically enhanced expected progeny differences, or GE-EPDs, Watkins knew he had come across something good.

Watkins and his wife, Paula, own and operate Yolo Ranch, a 5,000-acre commercial Black Angus operation just south of Ringwood, Oklahoma. They noticed immediately that the level of accuracy offered by these test results was like nothing they had seen before.

Rather than waiting several years for an unproven animal to achieve progeny-proven traditional EPDs, improved accuracy values for the full range of evaluated traits were immediately available in an easy-to-interpret format.

Watkins quickly began using GE-EPDs powered by HD 50K testing on bulls acquired for his operation.

“Though we had always seemed to do well, we wanted to see how our animals truly stacked up to others in the market,” explains Watkins.

Yolo Ranch began utilizing genomic tests to provide predictions for feedlot gain and marbling, and selection and mating of replacement females, respectively.

The products are designed to help commercial cow-calf producers make more informed decisions around replacement heifer breeding and feeder cattle marketing in animals that are, at minimum, 75 percent Angus. Additionally, the trio of products enable commercial cow-calf producers to implement an Angus genetics game plan for the efficient production of Certified Angus Beef.

Watkins explains that by considering predictions for traits his animals historically excelled in, such as calving ease and marbling, he was able to make better management decisions around sire selection, culling and selection of replacement females.

“We’re able to see where our weaknesses are,” says Watkins. “We have a number that tells us whether a female is strong on her cow side numbers or feeder side numbers, so we can see if there are discrepancies somewhere.”

“Then the next year, we know to put the female that was weak on a particular side with a registered Angus bull that has GE-EPDs strong in that area. You can build your herd to a tremendous quality much faster and with more control.”

This capability for timely, dependable and easy-to-use results from genomic testing to inform breeding decisions has helped fill a void long-recognized in the beef industry, says Dr. Kent Andersen, associate director of technical services for Zoetis.

Traditional EPD technology has been used throughout the U.S. for the last several decades or so, but young, unproven seedstock animals could be evaluated only on pedigree and their own performance, and it took years before the amount of necessary progeny data was produced to provide EPDs with higher accuracy.

“The industry has known for a long time that it would be great to get young seedstock animals to a higher level of accuracy,” explains Dr. Andersen. “Genomic testing helps remove some of the error associated with selection and mating young animals.”

Producers can now readily purchase young, 50K-tested, registered Angus sires with complete sets of GE-EPDs for all evaluated traits, and with boosted accuracy roughly equivalent to the amount of information from a first-calf crop, says Andersen.

Not only is the testing process relatively simple and efficient, but it also delivers predictions for traditionally hard-to-measure traits, such as heifer pregnancy, cow size, feed efficiency and carcass merit.


Thanks to the adoption of HD 50K by Angus seedstock producers, this data resource enabled the development of the tests for commercial users of Angus genetics. Producers like Tom Watkins have taken notice.

“This year … 90 percent of our herd scored 98 or better out of 100 across traits such as marbling and gain. We believe that what we’ve done with Angus sires using GE-EPDs has resulted in those good numbers for their progeny,” says Watkins.

And it’s now not just cow-calf producers like Watkins who benefit from genomic technology – feeder cattle buyers and feedlot operators are beginning to see more specific genetic information as well.

Andersen explains that genomic test results act as an insurance policy of sorts, ensuring buyers know more about what they’re purchasing and, as a result, reduce the risk in those purchase decisions.

Feedlot operations are anticipated to be increasingly able to buy cattle with more assured gain, conversion and grade performance through the finishing process, and Angus seedstock producers’ commercial cow-calf customers are able to buy the most appropriate bulls to best complement their cows through knowing their full genetic merit.

“It really is a marketing tool,” agrees Watkins. “You say to a potential feeder cattle buyer, ‘Here’s the genomic test results on these animals – the genetics are superior, so we know how they’ll perform.’ Buyers can then look at the DNA and say, ‘Wow, I want these steers as opposed to taking a chance on another group of animals without those numbers.’”

In the midst of this transaction is where value-added certification programs come into play. Duane Gangwish is chief operating officer of one such program, Verified Beef’s Reputation Feeder Cattle program, which he describes as a vehicle history report – think Carfax – for the cattle industry.

“Our job is to document the past of a herd, including health, nutrition and 10-year genetic history, and bring that together to present to buyers of either calves or yearlings so before they buy, they have a full understanding of prior history and genetics,” Gangwish says.

This program uses a unique combination of calf management practices, age and source verification, a relative value score and a six-point evaluation known as the Genetic Merit Scorecard to indicate genetic and performance potential for British and Continental breeds, allowing buyers to easily compare sets of calves.

The scorecard uses EPD data of bulls used in the operation over the last 10 years to produce a specific, incremental prediction for calves’ gain, grade and carcass values. In the near future, producers will be able to replace that 10 years of sire EPD data with the results of several genomic test options.

Today’s genomic testing capabilities allow for a closer look at the performance potential of sires and dams, as well as resulting groups of feeder calves, than ever before.

The program’s primary customer is the cow-calf producer who uses the information gathered by the verification process to market calves, but finishing operations see the value as well.

Rather than buying cattle with unknown genetics for economically important feedlot and carcass traits, they can make purchasing decisions based on the documented history offered. This full-circle system has significant appeal for a producer like Watkins.

“We heard that this new program was able to take 10-year bull histories and translate the numbers so the feedlots understand what they’re buying and how they’ll perform. We participate because it allows us to make sure our customers are satisfied and come back to buy again,” he says.

Thanks to the introduction of genomic tests for both seedstock and commercial cow-calf operations, a two-pronged cycle now enables commercial producers to genomic test their females, mate them appropriately to tested sires with GE-EPDs and achieve the desired results in expressed productivity.

The outcome is dually beneficial as well: Superior replacement heifers go back into the herd, and superior feeder calves are marketed successfully. With increasing numbers of producers and cattle feeders seeing the advantages of genetic information, the folks at Reputation Feeder Cattle plan to grow beyond their current niche.

Another group taking advantage of the opportunities to make better beef through genomics is Top Dollar Angus, owned and operated by Tom Brink. This group helps identify the top Angus feeder calves, assuring feeder cattle buyers they are buying the best in Angus genetics.

They do this by using genomic tests, along with $B values from Angus sires, to genetically certify calves. Through this value-add program, the group is able to deliver prices significantly higher than market value back to the commercial cow-calf producer.

Organizations like these are proof that, while seedstock producers can continue to benefit from genomic technology, there’s real benefit to commercial cow-calf producers as well.

“I think that once cow-calf producers realize buying Angus bulls based on GE-EPDs and strategically testing replacements offers a competitive edge, they won’t want to give it up,” explains Andersen.

“Both financially and otherwise – they’ll be more flexible to adapt to changing conditions for their cow herd, their future has less risk and fewer headache from genetic surprises, and greater opportunities exist to more dependably market their feeder cattle for high prices.”

Tom Watkins is one producer who needs little convincing. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop – it doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of technology staring you in the face. I think sometimes what stops people from progressing their herds is that they’re stuck in their way of doing things. But money talks, and if I can do it, anybody can,” he says.  end mark

PHOTO 1: The Yolo Ranch in Ringwood, Oklahoma embraced GE-EPDs perfromed through HD 50K testing on bulls.

PHOTO 2: Tom Watkins and Yolo Ranch pushed to utilize genomic tests to predict feedlot gain and marbling, as well as selection and mating of replacement females. Photos courtesy of Tom Watkins.

Superior Livestock Auction and Verified Beef LLC team up to better serve the cattle industry.

MAY 12, 2015

Superior Livestock Auction and Verified Beef LLC team up to better serve the cattle industry.

FT WORTH, TX, May 12, 2015 — Superior Livestock and Verified Beef, LLC are partnering to provide ranchers with the best value-based marketing system available for feeder cattle. Recognizing the emerging trend of selling feeder cattle based on their breeding and management history, these two visionary companies will jointly offer ranchers the option to certify their calves through Verified Beef’s Reputation Feeder Cattle® (RFC) program and then market the calves on = Superior Livestock.

Superior Livestock has pioneered value-added marketing of feeder calves. By providing a national marketplace that brought calves directly from the ranch to buyers, Superior Livestock set the standard for successful marketing of top-end feeder cattle. Over the years, ranchers further differentiated their calves through vaccination and weaning programs, again pioneered by Superior. More recently, Superior released their Superior Progress Genetics program that identified the genetic source behind the calves. Now, Superior customers can use the Reputation Feeder Cattle® program as a 3rd party verification of both management practices and genetic merit.

Verified Beef, LLC, an industry-leading third-party, verification company, developed the Reputation Feeder Cattle® program. The program defines feeder calf value by verifying industry-leading genetics and best calf management practices. Verified Beef’s Reputation Feeder Cattle® program differentiates calves based on three fundamental principles:

  • Prediction of the performance potential of each herd’s unique genetic composition. Calves are ranked on six traits and assigned a relative market value that predicts their feedlot profitability.
  • Documentation of the calves’ nutritional and vaccination history including the products used and the timing of use.
  • Certification of the calves’ age and source, along with any other value based program that the producer desires to implement including NHTC, NE3, etc.

“Producers that have invested their time and money pursing best practices and high quality genetics should have their hard work and investments recognized when they sell at auction,” says Danny Jones, president of Superior Livestock Auctions. “We feel that the Reputation Feeder Cattle® certification logo in the catalog and at point of sale will help buyers more accurately identify the calves they want.”

“Our mission is to verify, document and promote feeder cattle quality by certifying the merit of sale groups,” says Ralph Peterson, Verified Beef’s director of producer outreach. “Cattle feeders have long known that well-managed cattle with strong genetics for feedlot and carcass traits are worth more. The challenge has been to find and price these calves without having fed them historically. Now, the Reputation Feeder Cattle® program changes all that.”

Reputation Feeder Cattle® capitalizes on the industry-wide acceptance of expected progeny differences (EPDs) and their successful use to characterize economically important traits. The revolutionary Genetic Merit Scorecard®, the core of the RFC program, determines genetic merit on a group basis. It accurately defines a sale group’s potential for gain, muscle, yield, quality grade, feed conversion and carcass weight. RFC then assigns a relative value to the group to allow buyers to compare the group to average calves. The scorecard displays the information in a format that is easy to interpret and understand for both buyers and sellers.

“We feel that the more certified information a buyer has on a set of cattle the more he will be willing to pay for them,” says Joe Lichtie, vice-president at Superior. “We understand that this program will not fit everyone, however, this is a step in the right direction. This will be a helpful tool for progressive ranchers to be able to add to their bottom line by more accurately representing their calves to buyers. Likewise, buyers can find calves that have reliable documentation of genetics and management practices that will more consistently meet their expectations.”

“This is simple…Reputation Feeder Cattle® is designed to make more money for ranchers who are buying better bulls and spending money on nutrition and health. At the same time, it makes more money for feedlots by identifying the cattle with better performance genetics and verifying cattle health and nutrition management,” says Tim Watts CEO of Verified Beef.

Superior Livestock Auction and Reputation Feeder Cattle® are developing specific identification protocols that will be implemented in Superior’s sales and marketing programs. Learn more at www.superiorlivestock.com and www.reputationfeedercattle.com.


Copyright © 2015 Superior Livestock Auction. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2015 Verified Beef, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Reputation Feeder Cattle® and Genetic Merit
Scorecard® trademarks are wholly owned by Verified Beef, LLC. US Patent No. 8,660,880

Reputation Feeder Cattle® bring $3.19 per pound at April, 2015 Superior Sale

Reputation Feeder Cattle® customer Tom and Paula Watkins from the Yolo Ranch in Ringwood, Oklahoma are happy with the results – and the payout – they received from their calves marketed using the Reputation Feeder Cattle® program. Tom’s comments and explanation of how they came to use the program is given below.

“The cattle industry is changing rapidly. Ten years ago I did not know the difference between a Hereford or a heifer. I was a career, near-retirement scientist in the medical arena, so I had some knowledge of statistics and noticed that the cattle industry was keeping track of quite a few numbers.

Thinking the industry must have a reason for all those EPDs, I made bull purchases based on what I would want my grandmother to be able to eat without her teeth. It was not an economic decision, just a hunch.

A few years later, I was discussing the trends in the industry with my vet as we were working cattle, and we thought that at some point in the future there would be a separation of prices paid for same-weight cattle. In the meantime, we watched, kept track of age and source verification, participated in NHTC and GAP programs and did anything else to add value to our cattle and marketing programs.

Well, the future is now. No longer do producers have to settle for “I guess I will take whatever you give me.” Finally someone has stepped up to the plate and devised a program that will indicate the genetic potential in calves to feeders, by using knowledge available through EPDs. This information allows the producer to market their cattle to feeders that want to make a profit on the cattle they feed. Simple!

This program is offered by Reputation Feeder Cattle® through Verified Beef, and it works. Want proof? Go to Lot #3066 in the Superior Livestock Sale, April 10, 2015 and you will see that we received $3.19/lb. for our 500 pound steers. ‘Nuff said.”

Zoetis announces partnership to help boost value of feeder cattle

Jan. 14, 2015

Media Contacts:

Mike Amos
Kori Conley
Bader Rutter

Zoetis announces partnership to help boost value of feeder cattle
Industry-leading support offers a new calf management program

FLORHAM PARK, N.J., Jan. 14, 2015 — Zoetis Inc. has partnered with Verified Beef, LLC, to support Reputation Feeder Cattle™, a program for ranchers and cattle feeders that helps define feeder calf value by verifying industry-leading genetics and best practices.

Age- and source-verified cattle have been attractive to the export market at extra premiums. Reputation Feeder Cattle will continue adding value for niche and export markets in years to come.

“This raises the bar for how feeder cattle are represented in terms of genetics, health, handling and verification,” said Jon Lowe, senior director and global head of genetics for Zoetis.  “Producers need to be looking out for the best interest of the industry by verifying their best practices.”

This progressive calf marketing and management program differentiates calves based on three fundamental principles:

  • Genetic merit for feedlot performance and carcass traits
  • Herd health, nutrition and management practices
  • Age and source verification

“Reputation Feeder Cattle describes historic health management and the genetic potential for feedlot and carcass performance that could impact break-evens and close-outs,” Lowe said. “Zoetis is excited to serve as a valuable link to help determine genetic potential for these cattle.”

Expected progeny differences (EPDs) have been used with great success in the cattle industry to identify the genetic differences for economically important traits of individual animals. Reputation Feeder Cattle will expand the breadth of data now available for the feeder cattle trade.

“By putting relevant genetic and management information at the buyer’s fingertips, the program has potential to revolutionize the value of feeder cattle as well as enhance performance and profitability over time,” Lowe said. “The historic success of EPDs allows the program to be a consistent and simple information conduit between cow-calf and feeder segments, ultimately meaning a better managed price, health and genetic risk across the industry.”

The Genetic Merit Scorecard®, the core of the program, helps determine genetic merit on a group basis. It accurately defines calves’ gain and grade profit potential based on their genetics. The scorecard displays the information in a format that is easy to interpret and understand for feeder cattle buyers and sellers.

Beyond genetics, Reputation Feeder Cattle emphasizes the value of well-planned nutrition and parasite control, as well as weaning and vaccination programs. Experts agree that some of the largest revenue-enhancing practices focus on early management for calves.

Reputation Feeder Cattle builds on the 30 years of demonstrated success of the SelectVAC® program from Zoetis. As the largest and longest-standing branded preconditioning program of its kind, SelectVAC has enrolled more than 5 million calves. Calves with solid health history records, a strong nutritional background and the genetics to perform both in the feedlot and on the rail will be highly valued and well-recognized in the market. The program informs cattle feeders when certified cattle are selling, whether at a livestock auction market or by video or private treaty.

“Combining the industry-leading experience from Verified Beef and Zoetis, Reputation Feeder Cattle will help cow/calf producers tighten vaccination, deworming and other pre- and post-weaning management strategies,” Lowe said.

To learn how to put Reputation Feeder Cattle to work for you, contact your Zoetis representative or visit ReputationFeederCattle.com.

About Zoetis
Zoetis (zō-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. In 2013, the company generated annual revenues of $4.6 billion. With approximately 9,800 employees worldwide at the beginning of 2014, Zoetis has a local presence in approximately 70 countries, including 27 manufacturing facilities in 10 countries. Its products serve veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in 120 countries. For more information, visit www.zoetisUS.com.

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