Monday, June 27, 2016

Foot Issues in the Angus Breed

If you Google foot issues in the Angus Breed, you’re not going to find much.  Following are the top three articles I found when I googled "Foot Issues in the Angus Breed".  The first is a newsletter published by VDAR or the Van Dyke family.  Seven years ago Ronnie and I had the pleasure of meeting both Lee and Keith Van Dyke and touring their farm.  You don't have to spend much time with either of them to know that they know their cattle.  When you walk through their cow herd you’re going to see structurally correct cattle that are deep with picture perfect udders.  When you read their newsletter you will see that they have been concerned about the foot issues in the Angus breed for several years.  

The second article I found on Google was the foot score brochure that has been developed by the American Angus Association.  I don't know when this was originally published but am glad to see that steps are being taken to address the issue.

The third article was considering structural integrity; this article was published back in 2010, so foot issues have been around for awhile.

I also did a search through yahoo and found solid footing an article printed in the Angus Journal in 2014.  This article talks about the steps being taken to develop a foot scoring EPD

The good news is that some folks are talking about foot issues, the bad news is at this point and time it is still just talk.  The Association is requesting breeders to turn in foot scores, but the question is how many breeders are actually doing it?  I confess we haven't turned in the first score; time seems to be the main issue. 

This year the foot issue really hit home for me, and here is why.  We had two first calf heifers that we had to send to the sale barn because of bad feet.  I am not talking about marginally bad I am talking about claw set 9 on the scoring sheet.  The really disappointing thing about these two cows is that we purchased both of them as embryos from a very well known breeder out west. Embryos are not cheap, not only do you have the cost of the embryo itself but you also have the cost of an embryologist to put the embryo in, in the case of these two first calf heifers we had raising them to breeding age, AI breeding then kaboom cull for feet!   Do we blame the breeder?  Should we blame the breeder?  Should a breeder be flushing a cow and selling embryos if the cow has bad feet?  Did the cow that produced these heifers have bad feet?  Did the bull?  The answer is I don't know.  I can tell you it has made me realize that I don't want to purchase anymore embryos at least not without seeing the cow and the bull.

If I feel this way about purchasing embryos, then I sure understand how commercial cattlemen would feel about bulls that came up unsound at 30 months old.  If we don't get a handle on this issue the commercial cattlemen are going to start looking at other breeds, and heck I can't blame them.  It is our responsibility as breeders to provide our customer with a product that works, cows find enough ways to hurt or kill themselves.  We sure don't need to give them another way through bad feet or structure to get culled.

An excerpt from the Consider Structural Integrity article explains what the Australian Angus Association is doing about this issue.

Scoring in Australia Attempting to aid cattle producers in genetic selection for structural integrity, Angus Australia has produced trial estimated breeding values (EBVs) for five foot and leg traits. The five traits include front feet claw set, front feet angle, rear feet angle, correctness of rear legs from a side view and correctness of rear legs from a rear view. Carel Teseling, Angus Australia’s breed development and information manager, says data from 9,000 animals representing 40 Angus herds were used to generate structure EBVs. Structure scores are accepted only for animals assessed by technicians accredited by the Performance Beef Breeders Association. Teseling emphasizes that the new EBVs have been produced as a trial only, but the information is available on the Angus Australia website. Posted structure EBVs have accuracies of 40% or greater. The assessment system uses a 1-to-9 scoring system for feetand-leg structure, with a 5 being ideal (see Figs. 1-4). Scores 4 and 6 show slight variations from ideal, but would include most animals and would be acceptable in any breeding program. Scores 3 and 7 represent greater variation, but would be acceptable in most commercial breeding programs, but seedstock producers should be wary. Scores 2 and 8 are low-scoring animals and should be looked at carefully before purchasing, according to the Australian scoring system. Scores 1 and 9 should not be catalogued and are considered culls.

Keep in mind the above was from an article in 2011 here we are the middle of 2016 and were still talking about it!  I sent an email to the Angus Association Board of Directors concerning foot issues in May.  Folks we need to put this issue on the forefront not on the back burner.  Ask yourself, what can I do to to help?

If you haven't done it already make 2016 the year you do foot scoring on your herd!  That is what we intend to do, we will never solve a problem if we aren't willing to take the first step needed to start solving it.