"As I See It"
As reprinted from The Western Livestock Reporter
By Patrick Goggins, Publisher
from "The BueLingo World" - October-December 1994


One of the most talked about phases of the livestock industry today has to do with size. There’s been a mass movement in many areas away from larger cattle and to down-size the frame score into a more manageable package. I can see some excellent thought into this, however it wasn’t but a few years ago they were pushing on to frame 9 and frame 10 bulls. Some places, in fact some of the same herds, are now pushing in the 5 and 5.5 frame score. This is a drastic, drastic change. I think this is a situation that bears watching on the part of cattle breeders, both the registered and commercial seedstock people.

I’m seeing steer calves being sold this fall and their difference in weights from the smaller frame to the more conventional frame is about 100 to 150 pounds per head. Even though the heavier calves do not bring as much per cwt., the ranchers are taking home nearly $100 a head more net from the larger calves.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of frame 9 and 10 or even 8, but I am thinking we best be careful about getting much below 7 in a herd bull. Because cattle, by nature, will breed down, and if we start with a frame 4 or 5, we will certainly breed some small, small cattle and if we continue to do that, we’ll have big problems ahead.

I’m sure many of you reading this have been in the cattle business long enough to remember the days of the 1940′s, ’50′s and ’60's when we had some dwarfism in the beef breeds. This was brought about by a selection for smaller cattle. If we go through that again I can almost promise you, that we will develop dwarfism in our cattle breeds again.

There seems to be a lot of talk, convention papers and speeches being made by the field of experts from universities, colleges and extension services. They are saying that Japan is having trouble getting enough meat from the United States because of the “shortage in small sized or light weight cattle in the U.S.” They are suggesting we should be breeding, selecting and creating more cattle for this market. All I can say to these so-called “experts” is that if very many people listen to them, they will again lead us down the primrose path of these same so called experts who, after World War II were telling us, “we have to breed these cattle smaller so that they fit in the counter case. The American public demands smaller cuts of meat.” And the story went on and on. Well, we did that. And many of the cattle that were being bred and raised in those years were little tiny cattle that at maturity come up to your belt.

The cattlemen I know across America who have been through the generations of these changes have not changed much. They are still breeding efficient cattle, they cull cows out that are not efficient and they cull their cows out that do not perform. When they do it this way, they eliminate the great big cow, they eliminate the little tiny cow and they have a middle of the road herd that’s very functional, very fertile and very productive.

Expected progeny differences (EPDS), are a tremendous tool for cattlemen everywhere both commercial and registered breeders, to advance their herds. If you make selections that have high accuracies you can move your herd in the direction you care to move, whether it’s birth weight, weaning weight, milk, yearling weight, whatever. These figures, if they have high accuracies, are meaningful and will help. The one item that is a measurable is frame score.

I get as many conversations, letters and telephone calls along this line now, as I did a few years ago when people wanted to breed their cattle tall. In those years, you’d get a phone call on certain herd bulls or a certain herd, and the first question would be, “How tall are they?” If they didn’t come up to their specifications for height, most of the time, they would thank you and you never heard from them again. Now we’re starting to get the same kind of phone calls wanting to know what the frame score is. And if the frame score is something more than they have in mind, then you don’t hear from them either. There appears to be quite a contingent of people across the country who want to have their cattle in the 4½ to 5½ frame score. The extremes on both ends of this size situation are not good. If they are too big, you’re in trouble. And if they are too small, you’re in greater trouble.

The secret isn’t how tall they are or what their frame score might be. The secret is to have outstanding predictable EPDs and have your livestock superior in every weight.