IBBA’s Statement Concerning Developmental Duplication (DD)

Published from the IBBA Breed Improvement Committee

In mid-August of 2013, the American Angus Association released a statement concerning a new genetic condition that was identified in Angus cattle. This new defect is called Developmental Duplication (DD) and is genetically transmitted as a simple recessive gene. Dr. Jonathan Beever, University of Illinois, one of the world’s most renowned experts in the genetic identification of abnormal conditions in livestock, has spent several years reviewing this condition prior to submitting a final report to the American Angus Association. When the gene associated with DD is paired (two copies of same allele) in a mating, the results are either 1) high probability of early embryonic death or 2) calves born with multiple limbs.  Other than an increase in the occurrence of mortality associated with dystocia, calves born with polymelia (born with extra limbs) often thrive, especially with removal of the limb or limbs at or soon after birth. Those animals identified as carriers (only one recessive allele) show no visible signs of the genetic condition and typically lead a normal life.

Based on research, Developmental Duplication is reported as a simple recessive trait like so many of the other genetic defects previously identified in cattle breeds around the globe.  Again, this means an animal must carry two copies of the defective recessive allele in order to show this condition. Dr. Beever tested a large number of high-use AI Angus bulls and found approximately 6.5 percent carriers of the DD genotype. Dr. Beever’s lab also discovered the DD genotype in the Brangus genetic population.

With the onset of DD, it is clear the discovery of genetic conditions will be a part of the future for all breeds of cattle. Several of our sister breed associations have already dealt with previously identified genetic conditions for years. It is a high probability IBBA will deal with some of these same previously identified conditions in our breed population. We will be working in good faith with our membership in identifying genetic conditions, managing these conditions, and protecting the interests of our commercial customers while addressing financial concerns in future breed policies.

Commercial testing is now available to identify animals carrying the DD genetic condition. We cannot stress enough the importance of a well researched and educated approach within each individual breeding program. If properly managed, the breeding and financial impact from this DD condition can be kept to an acceptable minimum.

The International Brangus Breeder’s Association Board of Directors, along with our Breed Improvement Committee, is considering the ramifications of this condition, the best interests of the breed and our membership, the state of where the science of genetics is moving with respect to the early detection of genetic conditions, and our ability to manage such genetic conditions. We are working on policy for these genetic conditions while putting the infrastructure in place to deal with abnormal genetic conditions in our breed population. Our Board will ultimately determine how we will best deal with DD and will keep you abreast of our progress.

More detailed information on polymelia condition can be found at:



Santa Rosa Ranch Purchases Steiner Ranch Herd

Bastrop, TX – After a century in the cattle business and more than 40 years of producing top quality purebred Brangus cattle, XS Steiner Ranch Brangus has dispersed their entire cattle herd to Santa Rosa Ranch. More than 1,000 head of females will be relocated to Santa Rosa Ranch along the Trinity River in Houston County, Texas, and will complement the growing herd of purebred Brangus and Ultrablack cattle that have been developed in their program.

“This is a bittersweet time for our operation,” commented Bobby Steiner of XS Steiner Ranch,  “but I am gratified that this premium cow herd, coupled with the already strong Santa Rosa Brangus operation, will definitely ensure Brangus bull and replacement female buyers with an unequaled opportunity to have access to the most premier Brangus cattle anywhere. I congratulate Gerald Sullivan, his daughter Kelley and their family, as well as General Manager Kent Smith of Santa Rosa Ranch because I know they offer an outstanding program for this herd to join.”

“We are proud to incorporate this stellar herd of cattle into our operation,” added Kent Smith, General Manager of Santa Rosa Ranch. “One would be hard-pressed to find a set of cattle with this reputation for quality and productivity than what Bobby and his family at Steiner Ranch have developed over time. This is a great opportunity for our program.”

Santa Rosa Ranch was founded by the Gerald and Susanne Sullivan family and has locations in Grimes and Houston counties. Under the guidance of GM Kent Smith and Manager Scott Broadus, Brangus and Ultrablack seedstock are developed from the genetic foundation of Brinks Brangus, Gardiner Angus and V8 Brahman cattle. Recently, the program expanded to the historic Rattlesnake Ranch/7J Stock Farm in Houston County, offering expansion opportunities for their current purebred and commercial operation as well as bull development, replacement female and weaned calf programs. For more information about Santa Rosa Ranch, log on to http://www.srrtexas.com or call 936.624.2333.

Source: Kelley Sullivan, Santa Rosa Ranch

Interpretation and Use of Calving Ease EPDs

by Andy D. Herring
Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University

Calving ease (the opposite of calving difficulty or dystocia) is dependent upon several factors. The most obvious factor affecting calving ease is calf birth weight. But, a small heifer can calve without difficulty just as a very large heifer can experience calving difficulty as not only the calf size (as measured through birth weight), but the ratio of the calf size to the size of the pelvic opening is the most critical factor. Calves of the same birth weight may not be shaped the same; broadness of shoulders, degree of muscle expression, length of the calf, etc. may be very different across calves even when birth weight is similar. Calf size, particularly for first-calf heifers, explains most calving problems.

Research conducted over the years has provided much useful information to understand calving difficulty. In the 1970s at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center, the Germplasm Evaluation (GPE) project was initiated to evaluate cattle breeds and sires bred to British females. Dystocia incidence across all sire breeds was reported to be 38.5 percent in two-year-old first-calf heifers, 13.3 percent in three-year-olds, and 7.4 percent in four- and five-year-old cows. Nix et al. (1998) studied 2,191 calving records from the Clemson University Beef Physiology Unit herd (1981-1993) and were analyzed to determine factors affecting malpresentation, mortality and dystocia. Only 20 (0.91 percent) of these calvings involved improper presentation of the calf. Among the 20 malpresentations, 14 were posterior, three were leg deviations, two were head deviations, and one was a breech birth. Overall, 94 percent of the births required no assistance; of the six percent of births that did require assistance, the vast majority was due to calf size. Calf size and female parity explained most of the dystocia.

Over the years, as breed associations recommended their members to collect birth weight records and eventually calculated birth weight EPDs, this provided breeders with tools to aid in reduction of dystocia. Dystocia is an added stress that increases postpartum anestrous, and this can be particularly harmful in first-calf heifers as they take longer to begin cycling after calving than older females even if no dystocia is experienced. Although birth weight EPD is useful in reducing incidences of dystocia, more precise measures of calving ease provide additional tools to breeders.

The Calving Ease Direct (CED) EPD is expressed as a difference in percentage of unassisted births in the birth of progeny from that animal (as when bulls are bred to first-calf heifers), with higher values indicating greater calving ease. Comparison of the CED EPDs between two animals predicts the average difference in calving ease percentage by which the two progeny groups will differ when they are being born. The Calving Ease Maternal (CEM) EPD is expressed as a difference in percentage of unassisted births from daughters of the animal in question, again with a higher value indicating greater calving ease. If two bulls are being compared for CEM EPDs and are bred to heifers, the CEM EPDs will represent differences in expected calving ease percentage among the two sires’ groups of first-calf daughters. It predicts the average ease with which daughters will calve as first-calf heifers when compared to daughters of other animals in the breed.

The table below provides some EPD values on calving ease direct, birth weight and calving ease maternal from the IBBA fall 2012 genetic evaluation. Among active sires, the range in CED EPD goes from -14.2 on the low end to 13.0 at the top, a difference of 27.2 percent calving ease between these extremes with an average CED EPD of +5.2. These values were taken directly from the fall 2012 evaluation on the IBBA web site (except for the fictitious bull OMG ANONYMOUS 4321). The range in CEM EPDs is from -4.0 to 12.4 with an average of +7.2. The range and average for birth weight EPD is also shown.


EPD comparison on four bulls in the Brangus Fall 2012 Multibreed cattle evaluation


Calving Ease




Calving Ease














NMSU 94004




Average *












*Among active sires

The interpretation of calving ease EPDs is similar in concept to other trait EPDs, but the units are different. If the four bulls in the table were bred to a genetically similar set of heifers that were managed the same way in the same location, it is expected that calves of MC 661 JOHN WAYNE 535S9 would have 20.9 percent more calving ease (difference between 11.9 and -9.0) than calves sired by OMG ANONYMOUS 4321, calves sired by BRINKS BIG EASY 589F29 would have 19 percent more calving ease than calves sired by OMG ANONYMOUS 4321 (difference between 10.0 and -9.0), and calves sired by NMSU 94004 would have 16.1 percent more calving ease than calves sired by OMG ANONYMOUS 4321 (difference between 7.1 and -9.0). It can be seen that in general birth weight EPDs are related to CED EPDs, but this relationship is not exact. Among these bulls, although MC 661 JOHN WAYNE 535S9 is expected to sire calves with slightly more calving ease than BRINKS BIG EASY 589F29, BRINKS BIG EASY 589F29 is expected to sire calves slightly lighter in birth weight than MC 661 JOHN WAYNE 535S9.

The daughters of these four bulls (when all are bred to the genetically similar bulls and managed the same) would also be expected to express some differences in calving ease when they, in turn, are dams. Daughters of MC 661 JOHN WAYNE 535S9 would be expected to have calves with 10.2 percent more calving ease than daughters of OMG ANONYMOUS 4321 (8.2 minus -2.0); daughters of BRINKS BIG EASY 589F29 would have 7.5 percent more calving ease than daughters of OMG ANONYMOUS 4321 (5.5 minus -2.0), and daughters of NMSU 94004 would have 10.8 percent more calving ease than daughters of OMG ANONYMOUS 4321 (8.8 minus -2.0).

Use of calving ease EPDs can offer additional tools for Brangus breeders rather than only using birth weight EPD for control of dystocia, particularly in first-calf heifers. Incorporation of Calving Ease Direct EPD into breeding decisions is expected to give increased potential to reduce dystocia over birth weight EPD alone. No matter what location or expected market for calves produced, cattle breeders should always utilize balanced selection that considers reproduction and well as growth and size traits. Any trait or selection tool that provides increased potential for female fertility and calf survival should be economically advantageous.

This article was originally published in the 2012 November/December issue of the Brangus Journal.

DNA Information Empowers Informed Selection and Breeding Decisions

Source: Pfizer Animal Genetics

Technology helps producers speed up genetic progress.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Selection and breeding decisions can affect the performance and profitability of a cow/calf operation for years to come. This is why Steve Densmore, who raises purebred Brangus cattle at Circle X Land and Cattle Co. in Bryan, Texas, uses genetic technology to help him make better decisions that also benefit his customers.

“We try to produce what commercial producers want,” Densmore says. “The genetic technologies we’ve acquired have allowed us to eliminate cattle that do not produce desirable traits and help us identify cattle that have traits that will continue to move our herd forward.”

Kent Andersen, Ph.D., associate director, Technical Services, Pfizer Animal Genetics, says the biggest advantage of DNA technology is the ability to make more-informed buying and breeding decisions.

“DNA technology is especially valuable when evaluating young, unproven seedstock,” Dr. Andersen says. “This information allows producers to make purchase decisions with greater assurance for important traits.”


To help accomplish their goals, producers are utilizing GENESTAR® Molecular Value Predictions (MVP®s). GENESTAR, a targeted-marker DNA test, provides producers with genomic information about key production traits in all breeds of beef cattle. Test results include MVPs for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness. The reports also include percentile ranks, which are determined by benchmarking each animal against hundreds of its breed contemporaries in the Pfizer Animal Genetics database.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

This information also is beneficial for commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches in Cyril and Marlow, Okla., and Roark Ranches in Marlow, Amber and Cheyenne, Okla.

“Incorporating genetic technologies has not only allowed us to continue to create a great Brangus female, but it’s moved our steer program several notches above where it used to be,” Bohn says. “I’m able to look at a bull and know so much about him before I ever even consider putting him on a set of females, rather than finding out three or four years later if I made the right choice.”

GENESTAR MVPs are derived using a targeted marker panel for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness.  GENESTAR features a Palatability Index, which combines information about tenderness (shear force) and marbling, and ranks animals according to described genomic merit for traits that impact tenderness, juiciness and flavor. What’s more, producers can use GENESTAR to identify animals that are homozygous or heterozygous for black or wild-type coat color.

This information empowers producers to select animals that will advance their herd and the goals of their breeding programs, Dr. Andersen says. They can use this information to:

  • Select breeding stock that are more likely to transmit desired genetic merit for palatability traits, feed efficiency and coat color
  • Identify animals with desired genetics for consumer satisfaction
  • Make more-informed mating decisions
  • Advance genetic progress

Bohn says DNA information helps make proactive changes rather than having to fix problems later.“DNA results tell us so much, and it doesn’t take years to gather this information — it’s there almost immediately,” Bohn says. “We’ve eliminated some herd sires that looked like great candidates visually and on paper but didn’t meet our standards based on the DNA information. This saves us from investing time and money and incorporating them into our program. And now that we’ve started incorporating GENESTAR into our females, it gives me a lot of confidence that I’m building a superior product.”

Dr. Andersen says that given today’s high input costs, it’s valuable for producers to take advantage of selection information derived from genomic technology.

“Genomic information can help take some of the guesswork out of seedstock selection and breeding decisions,” Dr. Andersen says. “Producers should talk with their seedstock suppliers about providing this information on sale cattle to help ensure they can make the most informed purchase decisions for their operations.”


All brands are the property of Pfizer Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2012 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved.

Agriculturists, Will You Stand Up?

Did you know one in seven Americans work in agriculture-related jobs?
However, everyone is affected by agriculture.

Farmers Fight is a student-led initiative to reconnect American society to the world of agriculture. Beginning with university students, Farmers Fight encourages consumers to ask where their food comes from and give students, faculty, public officials, farmers and ranchers an opportunity to become “agvocates” for the agriculture community.

Committed to Quality

Brangus producers have had a long-standing commitment to quality, and now the IBBA is partnering with BQA to improve our product for consumers. At www.bqa.org you’ll find an array of educational material to help you improve management practices and your breeding program. To find a breeder near you, check out GoBrangus.com.

Pink Slime: What is it exactly?

After several days of following articles, posts, tweets, links, etc. about this topic, we think the following blog post on Common Sense Agriculture’s Blog is the most descriptive, accurate summary explaining what the media is calling ‘Pink Slime’. Feel free to tell us or Jeff what you think. Check out the links at the end of the post for further reading.


Pink Shirts, Pink Ties and Pink Slime

By Jeff Fowle, Editor of Common Sense Agriculture’s Blog

“Pink Slime” has hit the media yet again in recent days. Several of my friends in social media have inquired what my thoughts were on a number of videos and news reports: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution ‘70% of Americas Beef Is Treated With Ammonia,’ Fox News Report ‘Pink Slime in 70% Of Ground Beef,’ and ABC News ‘Where You Can Get Pink-Slime Free Beef,’ were the three most cited.

Can you imagine taking fresh picked fruit, misting it with ammonia hydroxide to eliminate bacteria, sticking it in a blender, cooking it, putting it in a jar and then selling it for human consumption? Most of us do, by purchasing jelly and jam to go with our peanut butter.

Can you imagine taking fresh picked lettuce or spinach, misting it with ammonia hydroxide to eliminate bacteria, putting it in a package, selling it, buying it, opening it, adding croutons, tomato and ranch dressing and then eating it? Many of us do, purchasing prepackaged salad to eat before supper.

This post is not intended to promote, nor condemn the practice of utilizing ammonium hydroxide, but rather to present some facts and allow you to make your own decisions. This is not a “new” process, nor is it solely utilized by the meat industry. The questions are those that I have been asked over the past four days.

1.       What is ammonium hydroxide?

Ammonium hydroxide is ammonia mixed with water and is found naturally in the air, water, soil, all plants and animals and is produced by the human body. All living things need proteins, which are made up of twenty different amino acids. Plants and micro-organisms can make most amino acids from nitrogen in the atmosphere, but animals cannot. Ammonia is a very important in the nitrogen cycle, protein synthesis and helps maintain the body’s pH balance.

2.       Is ammonia really used in food processing?

Ammonia in a variety of forms is used for leavening, pH control and surface finishing. Ammonium bicarbonate and phosphate are used as leavening agents ‘yeast food’ and dough strengtheners and are listed as acceptable in natural and organic food markets. Ammonia hydroxide, while already present in muscle tissue, is added to muscle that is not immediately packaged (more on this later) to change the pH to eliminate and reduce risk of ecoli and salmonella bacteria. The list of foods that ammonium hydroxide is used in includes: cheeses, chocolate, pudding, relishes, jams, fruits, vegetables, cereals, sports drinks and beer, to name a few. Remember, ammonia is naturally occurring and plays a vital role in maintaining health of both plants, animals and humans.

3.       Is ammonium hydroxide safe?

In 1974 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) listed ammonium hydroxide as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). It is also recognized as being safe by other countries, the European Union, the JECFA (Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives) of the U.N.’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and the WHO (World Health Organization). Ammonia vapor can be harmful at high levels, as can consumption of the liquid form. While it is possible, in theory, to consume a lethal level of ammonia, because of its very strong smell and taste, a human or animal would be repulsed and unlikely to actually eat it. When used in the processing of fruits, meat and vegetables, only food grade ammonium hydroxide is utilized and the ammonia evaporates prior to packaging.

4.       Do they really use ‘dog food’ meat?

Hamburger is muscle and fat tissue that is not sold as retail cut. Trim, the muscle and fat that is cut away from steaks, roasts and stew meat, has always been utilized in hamburger. As a rule of thumb, younger animals yield less hamburger; older animals tend to yield more hamburger.  The reason that older cattle yield more hamburger is simply due to the fact that their muscle tissue tends to be tougher and less desirable in the form of steaks Younger cattle are typically more tender, thus more of their carcass goes to retail cuts. Whether an animal is young or old, fat is trimmed from the muscle and then added back in order to package a hamburger product that is “lean.” I share this because historically all the trim was utilized in hamburger. However, in the 80’s, “lean” became the demand and so the trimmings of fat were removed and used for other purposes, ie dog food. It was quickly realized that there was a tremendous amount of high quality lean beef being lost in providing “lean” product and so a process to stop the waste was developed. For me personally, when I have a steer, heifer or bull cut and wrapped for the freezer, I have our butcher put all of the trimmings into hamburger. I like the fat. Fat is where the flavor comes from and without it, patties fall apart.

5.       Is the process described in the reports accurate?

Trimmings and cuts deemed to be low value (the chuck and top round most often)  are set aside for use as hamburger, sausage and other products. All of the muscle is trimmed by hand to establish a lean product and trimmings. The trimmings are then heated and put in a centrifuge to separate the remaining muscle from the fat. It is then “misted” with ammonium hydroxide to drop the pH and address the potential risk of ecoli and salmonella due to the heating and it evaporates; it is not “poured” in, or thrown in a washing machine as depicted by Jamie Oliver. The lean product then has fat added back to it in an amount to provide a “lean” label and have the ability to maintain the form of patty. As a side note, some carcasses are “too lean” and fat has to be added to the lean in order for it to retain its shape as patty; fat often from another carcass. Also, as a personal note, where I have my beef cut and wrapped, I ask my butcher to add some pork fat to my hamburger to add a unique flavor…the essence of bacon J.

In conclusion, I leave you with the following thoughts. Ammonium hydroxide is naturally occurring and safe for consumption. Trimmings are used with low value muscle for making hamburger and sausage and to eliminate the risk of ecoli and salmonella, are misted with ammonium hydroxide. I do not like “lean” hamburger and instruct my butcher to include all of the trimmings, no fat missing (sometimes adding pork fat), so I can barbeque juicy and flavorful burgers. However, I also eat burgers at fast food establishments, diners and café’s and trust that they are safe to consume, despite being dryer and a bit less flavorful due to its lean nature. I leave you to make your own decision, but I for one will continue to eat burgers that contain lean beef retail trim (also referred to as ‘pink slime’) and wear pink shirts and ties.

Here are some additional links for reference:

Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) Is A Safe and Wholesome Beef Product

BPI Ground Beef Gets Support From Food Safety Leaders

Engineering A Safer Burger