Whole Herd Reporting
Historically, many beef breed genetic evaluations were based on progeny weaned and/or registered and did not require that data be recorded from females that failed to reproduce, or whose progeny were not registered. By contrast, inventory-based Whole Herd Reporting (WHR) requires the collection and reporting on an annual basis, the production of every cow and performance of every calf raised through weaning. A Sample annual schedule for Whole Herd Reporting is provided as an example how a WHR program may function.
Collecting records on the production of every female allows for the calculation of unbiased reproductive genetic predictions, such as heifer pregnancy and Stayability. Collecting weaning weights on the whole calf crop allows for the calculation of unbiased genetic predictions for growth through weaning, as well as the ability to account for selection for post-weaning traits. The importance of the latter cannot be overstated. Note birth weights are not required as it is not reasonable for producers managing cattle in extensive conditions to collect a birth weight on every calf in the first 24 hours.
While it is the objective of WHR to accumulate reproductive and performance data on all animals in a breed, the purpose of WHR is not to control which animals will be registered. That remains a decision of individual breeders. With WHR, performance records (or disposal codes) are required on all calves produced by each breeder, but whether any or all of those calves receive registration papers is the breeder’s decision.
The following procedures and definitions are recommended for an efficient and effective inventory-based Whole Herd Reporting system.
Heifer exposure inventory
To collect reproductive data on potential replacement heifers, a yearling heifer exposure inventory must be produced. This is different than yearling weight reporting, and associations should not assume that all heifers that report a yearling weight will be exposed. The heifer exposure inventory would typically be requested in May for spring-born heifers and in November for fall-born heifers. On the inventory, producers should indicate breeding season start and end dates, individual exposure status, management group, and disposal information. Differences among management groups in post-yearling feeding, management, or mating practices should be recorded.
Designating breeding season length is for use in genetic prediction models, which generally do not use data from an open-ended breeding season (e.g., >90 days). Mating practices include putting heifers into different management groups, which are pasture bred in different breeding pastures. Heifers that are artificially inseminated in the same management group, but put into different cleanup pastures do not need to be designated separately.
Breeding herd inventory
An annual inventory will be requested by the breed association from the breeder in December or early January for spring calving herds (January 1st – June 30th) and in June for fall calving herds (July 1st – December 31st). Breeders will identify those animals to be removed from inventory, add new animals of breeding age not found on the inventory report (e.g., new purchases), and submit the completed inventory report to the breed association national office. These inventories will list all animals the breeder will be collecting production data on for the next 12 months.
The two-inventory system described above is recommended over single-inventory systems that encompass both calving seasons. To identify which cattle will be expected to calve in the coming year, the two-inventory system, spring and fall, allows breeding inventories to be determined for each calving season when cows are at the same stage of production. Therefore, inventories are determined after the previous season’s calf crop is weaned and pregnancy checking is completed, but before the next calving season starts. The recommended inventory times are December to early January for spring calving cows and June for fall calving cows. This allows both reproduction and production to be tracked in a uniform and unbiased system for both calving seasons.
In the case of a single inventory that covers producers’ herds that have both spring and fall calving cows, decisions on the active status of one of the groups (spring or fall) must be determined while they still have calves at side and before pregnancy checking is generally done. Therefore, the off-season calving group from when the inventory is conducted will be biased, because producers do not have the necessary information to make informed decisions as to whether a cow should be on inventory (e.g., pregnancy and production status).
There are advantages for an inventory-based fee structure. The objective of WHR is to record performance data from the entire herd, therefore, the fee assessment structure must encourage complete and unbiased reporting of data. Charging assessment fees and/or penalties for non-reporting of data may differ from one association to the next. However, with inventory-based WHR, consideration should be given to an inventory-based fee assessment system because: 1) it removes all financial disincentives to submitting complete production and performance data; 2) it encourages producers to maintain an accurate active inventory; and 3) it promotes the registration and transfer of seedstock destined for use in commercial production. In the case of the latter, transferring bulls to commercial producers opens up the opportunity to analyze a commercial herd’s genetic profile, as well as opportunities for commercial producers to market their calves based on their objective genetic potential. Each association’s WHR payment schedule should be designed so that full payment is received prior to when animals’ weaning records and registrations typically occur. An example is having payment due in full no later than Oct. 31st for spring calving herds and April 31st for fall calving herds.
Performance record requirements
During each 12-month period, a minimum of one of the following must be recorded for each cow on inventory:
• A weaning weight on every calf raised through weaning.
• A disposal code for calves that die before weaning.
• A disposal code for the cow.
• A reason code for the cow's failure to produce a calf (e.g., open, embryo transfer program, moved to the next calving season).
Any cow on inventory will be inactivated unless a minimum of one of these four items is reported. To ensure complete reporting, a reactivation fee should be required for reinstatement of females that have been inactivated for non-reporting. It is recommended that the reinstatement fee be of sufficient magnitude to discourage selective reporting resulting from producers taking cows on and off breeding herd inventories.
Collecting other inventory-based performance data may not be required, but is highly recommended. For calves, this includes the full array of postweaning performance traits, as well as their genomics. On the cow inventory, other traits include taking udder scores around the time of calving, as well as mature weights and body condition scores taken around the time calves are weaned.
Other data to be recorded on individual cows include:
- Breeding dates. Record dates of artificial insemination services or of observed natural matings. For pasture matings, record natural service exposure dates (start and end of breeding season).
- Pregnancy status. Prior to determining a breeding herd inventory for the coming year, cows should be pregnancy tested by trained personnel.
- Calving date. Each calf’s birth date is also its dam’s date of calving. As a trait of the cow, this date may be used to calculate gestation length, days to rebreeding, and calving interval.
No progeny report
Prior to inactivation, breed associations should send producers a "no progeny" report listing all cows that have not met reporting requirements from the previous year. This would allow the producer to complete reporting on any cattle that might have been missed.