• Miranda Reiman, senior associate editor

Angus Hair Shed EPD to go live Friday

Cattle that shed off earlier typically have better heat tolerance, and breeders looking for a way to create adaptable cattle have already been scoring for that trait.

On Friday, May 27, the Hair Shed (HS) expected progeny difference (EPD) will move from the research phase to a production EPD.

“There'll be online pedigree lookup. You'll be able to sort bulls by hair shedding to see if you want to use one bull over the other for this particular trait. With that, we'll update it weekly. So, as more and more information comes in, that EPD will be updated on a weekly basis, just like any of our other traits,” says Kelli Retallick-Riley, Angus Genetics Inc. president.

For more information on the EPD release and how to use the tool, listen to the full interview, or read the transcript below.

MIRANDA REIMAN: Hair shedding ability is heritable among cattle, and it is a trait that’s associated with everything from reproduction to gain.
I’m Miranda Reiman, with the Angus Journal, and I had a conversation with the president of Angus Genetics Inc. to talk about the official release of the Hair Shed expected progeny difference. That’s coming up on Friday, May 27th, so listen in to hear more.
So Kelli, give me just a little bit of a brief history about that, and kind of where we’re at with the Hair Shed EPD.
RETALLICK-RILEY: Yeah. So, this hair shed EPD is basically an EPD that indicates cattle who are going to shed off earlier in the summer months. So right now, we have a lot of cattle heading out to pasture. It's heating up. These cattle are starting to shed off. And we're basically looking for those animals that shed off earlier in the season. We've had ongoing collaboration and research with research universities in the Southeast, from Missouri to Mississippi, all the way up to North Carolina. And we've noticed that these animals that shed off earlier, normally have a better heat tolerance, and a tolerance to hot fescue. And so, in order to help find solutions to actually mate those animals to their environment, we started collecting these hair shed scores. And now, we're to a point where it's been in a research environment for almost two years, we've had more and more hair shed scores being sent in by breeders from across the nation. And we're actually ready to put that into a, what we call a production EPD, that will be reported weekly through our genetic evaluation.
REIMAN: Excellent. I know as I've talked with breeders in some of that area, they've talked about, ‘We've always noticed that, but now to have a tool and a way to standardize that collection.’ Tell me a little bit about this research phase. What does it mean if an EPD is in the research phase?
RETALLICK-RILEY: Yeah. So, when an EPD is in a research phase, that basically means that we've been through all the trait development. We have already collected a cohort of data that we've actually went in, and been able to calculate things like heritability components, or the proportion of the trait that's being controlled by genetics. And we've put it in this environment where our breeders, our members, commercial cattle, and can actually look at that tool, relate it to the cows that they have on their farm or ranch. And allows them basically a time frame to give us feedback on, yes, this tool looks like it's lining up with what we see in our own individual herds. It also lets that individual EPD mature.
So, when you think of something like a research EPD, obviously we have far less records than something like our birth weights, or our weaning weights, that have been around for decades, and thousands and thousands of members have been submitting those types of data points to us. A research EPD allows for that young EPD to mature, allows for an education period, allows for people to start participating in that EPD, before it hits them on that registration certificate.
REIMAN: And probably gather enough data to make it more accurate as a predictive tool as well?
RETALLICK-RILEY: Exactly. The more robust all these databases are, the more predictive that they can be in multiple lines of cattle. Anytime you have a new EPD like this, the ones that are closely related to the actual phenotypes in the population, are going to be the ones that have a better, more accurate prediction, because they just have more data to go off of. It's not that the model itself is inaccurate by any means. It's just that as you get more data, you get more reflective of what's actually happening out there in the cow-calf industry.
REIMAN: Sure. So as this goes live here at the end of May, what can we expect? Where can we find it? What happens at the end of month?
RETALLICK-RILEY: So, when it goes live at the end of the month, this hair shed EPD will basically show up on members’ registration certificate. There'll be online pedigree lookup. You'll be able to sort bulls by hair shedding to see if you want to use one bull over the other for this particular trait. With that, we'll update it weekly. So, as more and more information comes in, that EPD will be updated on a weekly basis, just like any of our other traits. So, if you go to a bull, or a female, and you look them up online, hair shed is going to be fit right under that management EPD category, next to that pulmonary arterial pressure EPD, or a PAP EPD, and it's going to be available for basically anyone who's collected a hair shed score on an individual, or any individual that's genotyped because this will be a genomically enhanced hair shed EPD.
REIMAN: Okay. And what are they looking for as far as what they can expect in terms of value, or how it's reported out there, and how they can use that tool?
RETALLICK-RILEY: Yeah. So hair shed EPDs will be much like our foot-structure traits, which will be reported in units of score. So hair shed score is actually captured on a one-through-five scale, where one is completely shed off, early in the summer, and five has a completely full winter coat yet. And so, it will be in partial units of hair shed score. So currently right now, for instance, for what we term our current sires or those sires that are reporting progeny inside of our database, there's about a whole score difference from the maximum EPD to the minimum EPD, and the breed average is going to be right around 0.55.
REIMAN: And that's where one would be less hair, or more hair? Which [crosstalk 00:19:53]-
RETALLICK-RILEY: No, that's a great question. So, a lower EPD is going to be more favorable, because we're basically working down that five through one scale. So, we want to have those animals be a one, or completely shed off. So, a lower or more negative EPD is going to be more favorable. So, Miranda, a really easy way to think about it is, if breed average is 0.55, in order to be a breed improver, I have to be lower than 0.55. And if I'm above a 0.55, I'm not necessarily making a genetic change in the right direction for something like hair shed.
REIMAN: And if a breeder has not been collecting hair shedding scores in this research phase, but wants to start doing it, where are the resources or the best place for them to get information, to learn how to?
RETALLICK-RILEY: So, definitely log on to Angus.org. Esther McCabe, our director of performance programs, has put together numerous different pamphlets of information that helps breeders to go out and collect those scores. You're going to find our scoring system, or Angus's scoring system right there on angus.org, under the performance measures tab. You can print that off. You can go out, collect those individual hair shed scores when you have time. And if you're going to want to do those yet this year, try to get those captured before the end of June. And we always say the larger the contemporary group, the better. So, if you want to go out, and you want to score your whole herd, just know that as long as you capture them within seven days of each other, those animals who were in the same yearling contemporary group, at yearling age, can flow into the same hair-shed group for this particular trait.
REIMAN: Excellent. And that is a great reminder, that end of June deadline will be here before we know it.

To learn more, pick up your copy of the April Angus Journal and flip to the article “A Hairy Situation,” or find that article online at AngusJournal.net.

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