The ‘why’ behind whole herd reporting

The American Simmental Association launched the whole herd reporting system called, Total Herd Enrollment, in April 1999. Twenty years later, THE remains at the center of thorough data reporting to fuel the genetic evaluation.

Why is whole herd reporting so beneficial to genetic evaluations and beef cattle breeders? This article dives into the merits of THE and similar systems for data-driven seedstock breeders and producers.

There are three big benefits of whole herd reporting for breeders.

1. To collect fertility and convenience trait data on the cow herd.

Reproduction is the biggest driver of profitability in the cow-calf sector and is also lowly heritable. Being lowly heritable means reproductive phenotypes are largely due to environmental influences. Therefore, to make improvements in the genetics of reproductive traits, it is imperative to use EPDs rather than making decisions based on a phenotype (i.e., pregnant versus open). That is not to say there aren’t managerial reasons to cull an open cow, but culling because of a pregnancy status will not improve the genetics of fertility.

Cow longevity records encompass both reproductive and convenience traits into one record system—whether the cow had a calf every year (and therefore stayed in the herd). If a cow is removed from the herd, breeders have to give a reason for culling that encompasses fertility but also other structural or convenience traits.

THE herds report productivity for every single cow in the herd, which indirectly provides fertility data on the entire herd. Records from THE herds are crucial for accurate prediction of stayability (the likelihood that an animal’s daughter will remain productive in the herd up to 6 years of age). Cow longevity is a big driver of economic value to the cow-calf sector making the accurate prediction of stayability a vital component to the success of commercial cattle operations.

2. Better prediction of all remaining production traits.

By reporting records on whole contemporary groups, not just the best calves or calves that will be registered, breeders provide a much more complete picture of the genetic potential in those animals on all the traits they are recording.

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