Preparing for the Future with Today’s Growth and Change By Scott Starr

As the summer activities progress, there always seems to be many tasks that need to be completed before time can move on. By the time this publication reaches mailboxes, I will be finishing up calving and working on breeding decisions for the next calf crop. Many operations are past this point and are starting to see the fruits of the past year in calf performance. Breeding decisions are, in my opinion, the most important single act any one of us can make. As we are moving forward, the world’s best live animal protein source deals with the enormous handicap of a one-year interval for genetic advancement. The pork and poultry industry are much, much faster and I guess that’s God’s way of keeping it fair by giving the lesser products faster intervals. The time constraints of beef production prove the tremendous ability of beef producers to keep ahead. The poultry industry can change genetics 5.7 times in one year; just think what we could do with beef cows if we had those capabilities. It also means we cannot make mistakes and I believe this really sums up the Gelbvieh and Balancer® breeders! As time rolls on you will see that chasing fads or single trait selection did not, and will not pay off for other breeds.

During our most recent face-to-face board meeting, a lot of time was spent on trying to read into that crystal ball for the future and stay true to our strategic plan. We want to make sure the success of our breed is moving along at the proper pace. It is more evident now than ever that we cannot make mistakes and must work hard to propel our breed and breeders forward. One of the programs that have been in the planning stages and came out of the board meeting with a specific direction is the AGA Expanded Services program. I encourage all AGA members to investigate these services and see if they can help your current program. Another program, which will be released later this year, allocates incentives to breeders that turn in highly relevant data. It will be beneficial to keeping the AGA database ahead of other databases. These incentives will be applied to feed intake data, DNA, and carcass testing.

Matt Spangler, Ph.D., with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Animal Science Department also came during the board meeting as a guest speaker tasked with explaining the AGA’s EPDs and how DNA is incorporated to produce the genomic-enhanced EPDs that the association’s breeders and customers see in print. Dr. Spangler’s session was tremendously enlightening and will help guide the AGA down the road. Dr. Spangler also further explained BOLT, which is the new software that AGA and the other International Genetic Solution (IGS) partners will use to conduct the National Cattle Evaluation. In short, the capability for real-time data updates is the major take-home message regarding a very intricate system. With BOLT, as soon as breeders input weights, EPDs will be generated.
While all of this is important for the board to know, the most interesting and thought-provoking portion of Dr. Spangler’s talk was about databases and the things that are required to sit in the cattle industry’s driver’s seat in the future. He simply explained that whoever has the most commercial data and how that breed can influence this data will be the leader of all databases. With that said, our Smart Select Service program is perfect to help the AGA be the best database in the industry! I personally want to ask all of us as AGA members to get as many of our commercial customers enrolled as they possibly can! Do whatever means necessary to get the cows in our database, e.g., offer to pay the first year. Once they can see the value of the data, I believe they will stay enrolled.

Speaking of our future, considerable time is spent at each board meeting with members of our American Gelbvieh Junior Association Board of Directors. We all see our juniors as the next generation of AGA members and want to help develop them into outstanding leaders of our breed as well as the beef industry. We have a tremendous set of forward-thinking and talented juniors. I hope all can attend the Jr. Nationals in Grand Island, Nebraska to show your support for the organization. This group has stepped up like no other in the past, so please show your support when you can, either at their national show or another event throughout the year.

The Summit is coming in August and is a tremendous leadership and beef industry-training seminar for our AGJA members and other youth interested in the beef industry.

Hope you all have an enjoyable summer. I will leave you with a couple of quotes. First, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” And secondly, “You are under no obligation to be the same person you were a year, a month, or even 15 minutes ago. You have the right to grow. No apologies.” Let’s grow the AGA!