Calving ease and neonatal vigor are two significant traits in the cattle industry. A live calf that is born unassisted and gets up and nurses right away is important in any calving environment but is critical in a heifer program.
Simplot Livestock Co. retains, develops and breeds more than 4,500 heifers each year. Dr. Randall Raymond, Simplot Livestock Co. director of research and veterinary services, says, “Of critical importance to our heifer program is calving ease and neonatal vigor.”
With this in mind, in 2011 the American Hereford Association (AHA) and Simplot partnered on a research project to document the benefits of using calving ease Hereford sires in a large-scale predominately Angus heifer program.
“With this project we are using young and unproven Hereford sires,” Raymond explains. “We are excited about the project because it is allowing us to sample sires that may or may not have a lot of numbers behind them. We are able to utilize them in a controlled setting to see how they do in our environment and follow them through the entire production system.”
During the first year of the project, eight Hereford sires were bred to nearly 500 virgin heifers. The first set of calves was born during the spring of 2012. Simplot collected birth weights (BW), calving ease (CE) scores and calf vigor scores.
“We have had no increased incidence of dystocia with the sires we have chosen and calf vigor has been acceptable,” Raymond says. “We are anxious to evaluate weaning weights, feedlot performance and carcass quality on the crossbred calves.”
In addition to data at birth, Simplot will collect weights at weaning, yearling and will measure feed intake on the steers and collect slaughter data. The females will be kept as replacements to look at long-term heterosis effects in the cow herd.
“Our long-term goal is to populate our cow herd with moderate-framed, efficient, crossbred cows that match our tough desert environment and have reproductive efficiency and longevity,” Raymond explains. “A combination of Angus and Hereford genetics provide heterosis that is relatively easy to manage and a large enough genetic database to allow us to select for economically important traits. This project has allowed us to critically evaluate proven and non-proven Hereford sires for their fit in our long-term program.”