Fewer Hurdles to Better Feet
By Crystal Albers | Angus Media
A newly announced partnership now makes it easier than ever for Angus breeders to collect foot scores.
The American Angus Association announces its collaboration with participating universities to assess foot structure on behalf of breeders who seek help in assessing their herds. The new service allows animal science students and judging team participants to collect foot scores as they visit Angus operations. It is available to all Association members, and compensation is voluntary and at the discretion of breeders.
Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) Genetic Service Director Kelli Retallick says it’s a helpful step in acquiring the valuable data needed to develop genetic selection tools for selecting animals with proper foot and leg structure. The program, she says, is a win-win for both breeders and universities.
“We hope members take advantage of this partnership to bring a young person onto their operation to help with foot score collection,” Retallick said. “We think it will be a great service for breeders who simply do not have the extra manpower on hand to call foot scores during yearling weight collection or pregnancies checks.”
Retallick says producers should first think about collecting foot scores when they’re collecting yearling data — then maintain records on those animals as they age.
“Taking only one score on each individual only gives a snapshot in time, while repeated measures allow us to analyze which animals maintain solid footing or get significantly worse with age,” she says. “This gives us a better understanding of the variation in foot types in the Angus population. It’s why multiple scores are encouraged on animals, year after year.”
The American Angus Association began accepting foot scores in 2014 to eventually develop an expected progeny difference (EPD) for structure.
To date, approximately 7,700 foot scores have been collected, with approximately 75% of these scores derived from yearling-age animals. More holistic data across the population will allow the Association to develop a reliable tool for commercial users of Angus genetics to select the right bull for their operations, Retallick notes.
To get started, breeders can simply reach out to a participating judging coach to request a student’s assistance for on-site collection. “Students then gain valuable contacts within the Angus industry and familiarize themselves with data management and performance programs,” she says.
Contact information and scoring materials are available at www.angus.org.
The Association’s simple foot scoring system characterizes cattle for two traits: foot angle and claw set. Both scores are ranked on a 1-9 scoring system with 5 being ideal. An animal characterized as a 5 for foot angle would have a 45-degree angle to the pastern. Animals that are extremely straight in their front-end and up their toes would score a 1, while an animal with a very shallow heel and extremely long toes would score a 9. (Click here for examples.)
Animals must have symmetrical claws with some space between them in order for an animal to be scored with an ideal claw set, or a 5. Animals scoring a 9 would have extreme scissor claw or screw claw with the curling and crossing of both claws, while animals scoring a 1 for claw set would have extremely weak, open or divergent claws.
Contact the Association’s Performance Programs department at 816-383-5100 with further questions about foot scoring or the university partnership. Go online to find the list of participating universities.