The Angus Association has been full of new announcements lately, and they all seem to be looking to the future.
On Wednesday, June 5, the American Angus Association dually announced its board of directors had selected Mark McCully as its new chief executive officer (CEO), as well as updates to existing value indexes and a new expected progeny difference (EPD).
McCully has most recently been serving as the vice president of production at Certified Angus Beef, where he focused on brand innovation, sustainability efforts, global initiatives, and improving efficiency.
Chief Operating Officer, Chris Stallo, was named interim CEO on May 16 pending McCully's first official day on June 10.
“Mark has grown up in the cattle business and possesses unique insight into all segments of beef production, his knowledge and leadership have served CAB well, and he will help to continue to drive the demand for Angus genetics globally,” said John Pfeiffer, Angus president, in the group’s announcement.
“I’m honored and truly thrilled to serve this incredible breed and its membership,” said McCully in prepared statements.
“The Association has such a rich and successful heritage. That history, coupled with breeders always striving to produce the best Angus cattle in the world and an incredibly bright and talented staff, I have nothing but optimism and excitement for our future.”
WLJ reached out to McCully on what exactly his plans and goals for Angus’ future look like.
“We’re terribly optimistic and excited about the future of the Angus breed and the Angus Association,” he said.
“I think the breed is very well-positioned. The leadership that’s been in place—with past staffs, past boards—to really set the association in a really good spot with our genetic database, our selection tools that are really cutting-edge and valuable to both seedstock and commercial producers.”
Words like “innovation” and “cutting-edge” came up a lot as he discussed the various elements of the association he will be overseeing. He overviewed investments and ongoing efforts in Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), Angus Media, the Angus Foundation, and Certified Angus Beef.
“As a total organization, we’re just seeing so many positive things happen. We’ve got a very strong membership. Very, very committed breeders that are very innovative and not resting on their laurels, yet at the same time, still hanging on to those time-honored traditions and the things that work really well in our traditional ranching and farming families.”
Updated indexes, new EPD
Along with announcing new leadership, Angus announced updates to existing multi-trait selection indexes (often called value indexes or $values). These updates were approved during the February 2019 Angus board meeting with planned rollout in June.
The updates include, in brief:
• ($B) Beef Value—Changes made put a greater emphasis on marbling and yield, as well as incorporating the fact “that a high percentage of Angus cattle are going to be marketed on a high-quality grid.” Other indexes that utilize $B, such as $G (Grid Value) and $F (Feedlot Value) will also be updated.
• $QG and $YG—These two indexes will be eliminated “as they are duplicative to EPDs currently in place,” according to Angus.
• ($M) Maternal Weaned Calf Value—The whole index has been updated to include EPDs that did not exist when it was first created, including docility, heifer pregnancy rate, and the newly released foot score.
Dan Moser, president of AGI, told WLJ that he thinks the changes to the $M index will be “a big advance.”
“We have a new, updated Maternal Weaned Calf Value $value that takes into account a lot of traits that were not in any Angus $value previously,” he said, explaining that the models were originally created in the early 2000s.
“We didn’t have EPDs for docility, we didn’t have EPDs for heifer pregnancy rate, foot scores, maternal calving ease—all those traits weren’t included in that $value. So, we’re doing a much better job of characterizing the maternal side of production and maternal efficiency with data.”
The new foot score EPD was announced Friday, May 31. The effort has been in the works since 2014. In February of this year, Angus released a “research run” version of the EPD, but now it is official.
“While we’ve had them in a research setting, we haven’t had a full publication across the whole breed,” Moser explained.
Regarding the foot score EPD’s inclusion in the $M index, he noted how the ability to select for good feet can translate into a model for longevity.
“Obviously that’s one of many traits that impacts how long cattle last in the herd,” he said. “I think the power to select for maternal efficiency and profitability through data is really enhanced with these new tools.” — Kerry Halladay, WLJ editor