Key Maternal Components and Considerations for Beef Producers

Pasture to plate starts with the cow. 

ABS understands that nothing happens in the beef business without the right maternal base. We understand that maternal can mean different things for every producer. In some cases, it’s purely the data, while in other circumstances, it’s much more. Structural soundness, udder quality, cow family history, production records, and other characteristics not completely demonstrated by an EPD are also critical components in determining maternal quality.   

While traditional all-purpose mating strategies have served the beef industry well, today there is also another approach to consider. With sexed semen, producers can now implement precision breeding strategies to eliminate compromises, emphasizing more focused maternal selection on a portion of their herd while simultaneously maximizing terminal value from females not needed to produce replacements. Check out our Sexcel® 60/40 Synch program as an example of this breeding concept. 

Whether your strategy is an all-purpose approach to balance maternal and terminal in each mating or to concentrate on just maternal, this page is designed to help you evaluate bulls through a maternal lens. We focus on traits that are important when considering a maternal perspective.   

Start with Maternal Indexes When Evaluating Sires 

We believe in the power of data and suggest that maternal selection indexes are a great place to start as they combine key maternal traits, their economic value, and associated costs. 

  • $Maternal ($M) is the Angus breed’s maternal index.   
  • Baldy Maternal Index (BMI) and Brahman Influence Index (BII) are maternally oriented Hereford indexes.   
  • The All-Purpose Index (API) is used as the maternal index for Simmentals.  

Maternal Traits to Consider in Genetic Selection   

Improve Fertility However Possible   

  • While low heritable traits like fertility can be best improved through crossbreeding, they should also receive emphasis from a maternal selection standpoint.   
  • Heifer Pregnancy (HP) EPDs should be examined.   

Longevity is a Key Maternal Driver   

  • Productive Longevity is a critical component of cowherd sustainability and profitability.   
  • Simmental and Red Angus offer Stayability EPDs while the Hereford breed publishes Sustained Cow Fertility (SCF).   

Adaptability Traits are Important   

  • Different environments bring different challenges and tolerances.  
  • Hair Shedding (HS) and Pulmonary Arterial Pressure (PAP) are traits that can have significant regional maternal importance.   

Avoid Extremes for Milk   

  • Milk needs vary by environment, but generally, we recommend avoiding both extremes.   
  • Study a sire’s Milk EPD.   

Reduce Mature Size and Dry Matter Intake   

  • Feed costs are the largest production expense for cow-calf producers.   
  • Consider traits like Dry Matter Intake (DMI) and Mature Size (MH, MW & MCW) EPDs 

Foot Quality and Docility are Key   

  • Improved Foot Quality (Claw & Angle) and Docility (DOC) are components that favorably contribute to both producer satisfaction and cowherd longevity.   

Enhance Teat and Udder Quality   

  • Udder quality pays dividends both in terms of convenience and longevity. The Hereford breed offers EPDs for both Udder Suspension (US) and Teat Size (TS).   

Don’t Compromise Maternal Calving Ease   

  • Overlooking Maternal Calving Ease (CEM or MCE) comes with significant risk.   

Calving Ease   

  • While calving ease is typically only a concern when breeding heifers, we recommend a moderate and consistent emphasis on calving ease within the cowherd to avoid future problems.   
  • Take a look at Calving Ease (CED) and Birth Weight (BW) to determine what is appropriate for your herd.  

Weaning and Yearling Growth   

  • Increased performance is generally positive, but from a maternal perspective, it must be balanced against larger mature size and input costs.  
  • Weaning Weight (WW) and Yearling Weight (YW) EPDs should be evaluated as you make your genetic selections.   

We are here to assist you in building your best cowherd by providing you with the genetics aimed at helping you reach your goals. With the enhancements in sexed semen production, maternal selection tools, and targeted and precise genetic selection, creating the ‘perfect’ female for your production system is more achievable than ever before.  

To assist you with your genetic selection, you can view our entire lineup on Bull Search at the click of a button. Choose to filter sires based on maternal traits or select the maternal hot list to find the right genetics to meet your operational needs.  

Explore the ABS beef sires through a maternal lens by contacting your ABS Representative or completing the form below.