Selecting the Right Angus Bull to Create a Resilient, Adaptable, Sustainable Cowherd

One of the most widely accepted benefits of artificial insemination in the beef business is the superior replacement females that you can generate. Historically, AI sire selection has been a balancing act of deciding where to give and take in terms of maternal and terminal traits. This balancing act nearly always results in the need to compromise on traits of importance.  

ABS Global’s Sexcel sexed female semen product line gives producers the freedom to concentrate their maternal breeding decisions on sires offering traits needed to drive maternal efficiency and profitability without sacrifice. Producers can create their replacement females from a defined portion of their cow herd with Sexcel without concern about the performance of male progeny from a mating. 

In this article, we focus on Angus genetics, as they represent most genetics being utilized through AI today. The American Angus Association (AAA) provides us with multiple economic indices for use in selecting cattle for different scenarios. Yet, none appear to be ideal for identifying the most profitable maternal genetics for a producer choosing to utilize sexed semen to create replacements.  

American Angus Association Indices for Selecting Cattle 

  • $Beef ($B) is a terminal index that serves as a good tool for predicting post-weaning profitability of cattle but has zero maternal emphasis.  
  • $Maternal ($M) has the makings of strong maternal index but is a primarily output focused index.  

Using $M to select maternal sires is a good start, however, a stronger emphasis on traits that impact input costs is necessary to identify the most maternally efficient and profitable animals. For more on EPD and $Value descriptions, check out AAA EPD and $Value Definitions. 

Additional Traits to Consider When Selecting for Cow Efficiency 

  • Mature Weight (MW) 
  • Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
  • Milk 

While we don’t have a direct tool to select for cow efficiency, we know that traits like Mature Weight (MW), Dry Matter Intake (DMI), and Milk can all impact the inputs needed to maintain a cow. Mature weight is our best indicator for a cow’s maintenance requirements. There are always exceptions, but on average, bigger cows require more feed and resources to maintain than smaller cows. $M places downward pressure on the Mature Weight EPD but not on Dry Matter Intake or Milk.  

This explains why $M is a good start, but to ensure a total view of maternal profit, input costs expressed by Dry Matter Intake or Milk need to be kept in check. This is illustrated in the table below by showing the average EPDs and percentile rankings of the top 100 Active Angus Sires for $M.  

Average EPD and percentile ranking of Top 100 Active Angus Sires for $M 

Top 100 $M Angus Sires 
Trait EPD Percentile 
Milk 31 27% 
MW 28 79% 
DMI 1.22 68% 
*Data as of 11/17/2022 


Dry Matter Intake is typically measured during the growing phase of an animal’s life. It is challenging data to collect, so there is limited information on dry matter intake in mature cattle. Nonetheless, the limited data available indicates that intake is relatively repeatable throughout an animal’s lifetime. For example, heifers with lower intake during the growing phase, tend to have lower intake as mature females, relative to their contemporaries. Therefore, it makes sense to put downward pressure on the trait as we strive to identify the most maternally profitable genetics for our customers.  

While it can be controversial in respect to its accuracy, Milk is also a trait that can impact input costs. The Angus Association provides a tool called the “Optimal Milk Module” to help determine a Milk EPD range that is appropriate for your operation. Genetic needs for Milk vary regionally with different resource availability, but there are upper and lower boundaries that will cause issues regardless of environment.  

Too little milk and calves will not reach their full potential for growth and marketability. Too much milk and you can create a high maintenance cowherd that will struggle reproductively without costly supplementation.  

More often than not, we find ourselves pushing the upper boundary for this trait in modern performance-oriented cattle. That being said, it is reasonable for us to apply negative selection pressure to bulls that fall above a certain Milk EPD threshold when selecting sires for purely maternal purposes.  

By using the $M and $B indices provided by AAA, in conjunction with the added emphasis on DMI and Milk as described above, ABS has developed a selection index to rank bulls whose daughters should excel for maternal profitability.  

While this discussion has been primarily focused on maternal traits, we recognize that maintaining adequate focus on the end-product value is necessary. Search and find bulls in our Bull Search tool that made the cut and have female Sexcel availability. These bulls all move us in the right direction for the traits discussed above, without sacrificing traits that drive value in the beef supply chain.  

Remember, utilizing female Sexcel to create your replacements provides you the opportunity to maximize performance and end-product value in the remainder of your calf crop, whether you sell at weaning or on the rail. 

Learn more on sire selection by watching this video.  

Helping producers identify the most profitable genetics for their production system is our foundation. Our ‘Make Matings with Intent’ philosophy is a mindset producers should consider. There are many breeding programs out there today…breeding solely for quality and balance, maternal, or terminal to name a few.  

Too much from any one area could be damaging to a herd without proper planning. With ABS Global’s main lineup genetics and Sexcel you don’t have to compromise any portion of your herd. You can truly make the most out of your genetic selection. Strategically segmented your herd to maximize outputs and minimize inputs is YOUR next step for sustainable profitability.  

Contact your local ABS Authorized representative today to find out how Sexcel from the right bull can help you build a resilient, profitable, and sustainable cow herd

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