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Virginia Quality Assured Feeder Cattle Program: Purple Tag Sire EPD Specifications

Livestock Update, January 2003

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

The Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program continues to be a successful option for offering buyers a certified, value-added product. During 2002, over 5000 head of VQA certified feeder cattle were marketed in the state. The Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program was initiated by the Virginia Cattlemen's Association for those feeder cattle owners seeking a means of identifying and differentiating their value-added cattle from an average set of feeder cattle. The value added is in the form of an improved health program, along with an opportunity to document genetics for growth.

The Virginia Quality Assured (VQA) feeder calf program certifies cattle for health, management, and genetic specifications. The VQA purple tag is used to identify cattle that meet both the prescribed health program and are sired by bulls that meet minimum growth EPD specifications. These sire growth EPD specifications are intended to assure that there is a reasonable level of growth genetics in the cattle, which should be translated into performance once they reach the feed yard.

In recent years the majority of the VQA cattle sold have carried the purple tag. For cattle to receive the purple tag, their sire must meet breed-specific yearling weight EPD minimums. Yearling weight EPD is the best indicator of genetic potential for post-weaning growth of a sire's progeny. In the case of feeder cattle, post-weaning growth may be defined as feedlot performance or average daily gain. Feedlot profitability is highly related to cost of gain, which is a function of individual animal feed efficiency, growth, and health (along with feed prices). Unfortunately, due to the challenge of measuring feed efficiency on individual cattle, genetic selection tools for direct enhancement of feed efficiency are not available. The favorable relationship between growth and feed efficiency results in yearling weight EPD being the most practical tool for enhancement of feedlot efficiency.

The following table lists the breed minimum yearling weight EPD requirements for bulls born in 2001-02. Bulls who have yearling weight EPDs greater than or equal to the minimums published may sire purple tag-eligible calves. In the event a bull does not have a yearling weight EPD, weaning weight EPD is used as the specification. These EPD specifications are based on information published in the Spring 2002 breed sire evaluation summaries, and will be applicable to yearling bulls purchased fall 2002 and spring 2003.

The sire EPD specifications have been set at breed average for birth year of the bull for British breeds. Due to the growth advantages inherent to the Continental breeds, Charolais, Gelbvieh, and Simmental bulls must have a yearling weight EPD in the top 70th percentile of their respective breed to qualify.

VQA Purple Tag
Sire Minimum EPD Requirements
Breed (EPD requirement) Minimum YW EPD Minimum WW EPDa
Angus (breed average) +61 +33
PB and >7/8 Charolais (top 70th percentile)
7/8 Charolais
3/4 Charolais
Gelbvieh (top 70th percentile) +56 +30
Hereford (breed average) +57 +34
Limousin (breed average) +23 +12
Red Angus (breed average) 49 28
Salers (breed average) +21 +13
PB and 7/8 Simmental (top 70th percentile) +52 +31
3/4 Simmental
1/2 Simmental
Tarentaise (breed average)
for other breeds or earlier born bulls, contact the local Extension office
a WW EPD only used in the absence of YW EPD.

Since the program was initiated five years ago, VQA feeder cattle have rapidly established a reputation of quality with potential buyers. For more information on the VQA program, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office or the Virginia Cattlemen's Association.

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