Economically Relevant Traits
An economically relevant trait (ERT) is a trait in which changes are associated with either revenue or costs of production of a commercial cattle operation. In order for a trait to be classified as an ERT, a producer must be able to assign a dollar value to a phenotypic change in that particular attribute. This ability to assign an economic value to a phenotypic change is dependent on the producer’s production and marketing scheme. For example, if market situations dictate the sale of weaned calves, then weaning weight would be considered an ERT since a pound increase in weaning weight increases revenue by the amount of the market price. If economic conditions change and now a particular breeder markets his calf crop at yearling, then weaning weight would no longer be considered an ERT because a pound increase in weaning weight doesn’t particularly have a specific economic value to the producer. In this instance, yearling weight would be the ERT and weaning weight would be an indicator trait.
It is important to understand that any indicator traits for an ERT should not be considered when making a selection decision. Only the value of the ERT should be used. A well constructed selection index should consider only ERT and not include indicator traits. Including indicator traits in selection decisions actually reduces the accuracy of the decision when the ERT is available.
For a more in depth look at ERTs please visit: Economically Relevant Traits
- Golden, B.L., D.J. Garrick, S. Newman, and R.M. Enns. 2000. Economically Relevant Traits: A framework for the next generation of EPDs. Proceedings of the 32nd Research Symposium and Annual Meeting of the Beef Improvement Federation. Pp. 2-13.