Useful Information

Same Name – Different Index

by Christine Mushrush | Published January 4, 2021

This fall the Red Angus Association of America replaced, HerdBuilder and GridMaster with three new indices.  Two of the new indices kept the names HerdBuilder and GridMaster, but they will mean something different from what they represented the last 7 years.

At Mushrush Red Angus, we want our customers armed with knowledge prior to using the new indices in their bull selection and it appears that these changes in selection tools will continue to evolve. With that we hope this will give you a better grasp of the three new indices released in November.  

The Original HerdBuilder

The original HerdBuilder index was designed to predict differences in profitability across the beef supply system. Such indices are sometimes referred to as “life cycle” indices since they covered the cow/calf, growing, finishing and carcass phases of the beef supply chain, and they were built from those traits that added revenue and subtracted expense across the entire production system.  HerdBuilder also functioned within a prescribed production/marketing plan that assumed all producers used bulls on cows and heifers, raised their own replacements, and fed all cull heifers and 100% of the steers and marketed them on a value-based grid.  Even though the majority of producers sell calves at weaning HerdBuilder reasoned that their calves were more valuable if they had superior genetics for the feedlot and carcass phases.

The New HerdBuilder index differs in that it will only predict differences in profitability contributed by the cow/calf phase.  The portion of the above diagram that is printed in Green shows how the new HerdBuilder index focuses its prediction of profitability solely on the cow/calf producer.  Thus, it will not consider any of the post-weaning traits shown in the feedlot and carcass phases.  

The Original GridMaster

Like the original HerdBuilder, the Original GridMaster was a life-cycle index designed to predict differences in profitability across the entire supply chain.  The big difference between HerdBuilder and GridMaster was their production/marketing scenarios were much different.  The Original GridMaster assumed all producers did not raise their own replacements, so they never used bulls on heifers – only on cows, and they retained ownership on 100% of their calf crop and sold them on a value-based grid.  Because no replacements were raised and no heifers were bred, certain traits highly valued in HerdBuilder were no longer valued in GridMaster’s production scenario. 

As you can see in the diagram above, with no concern for calving ease and reproductive traits, the original GridMaster shifted the responsibility for earning a profit to the Feedlot and Carcass phases.   Similar to the New HerdBuilder, the New GridMaster will take a more segmented look at profitability along the Beef Supply chain, and only consider those traits that impact the growing, finishing and carcass phases of the industry (see those traits printed in blue in the GridMaster diagram above)Thus, moving forward, pre-weaning traits will play no role in the new GridMaster Index.

You might ask, “But what about predicting profit across the entire supply chain or through the animal’s life cycle? ” 

Enter ProS (acronym for Profitability and Sustainability) which basically functions to add the new HerdBuilder and new GridMaster together to include all of the traits that impact profitability across the beef production cycle.

One of the advantages in the new system is that producers will be better able to use an index that truly represents their operation’s role in the industry.  In the past we found that many producers erroneously tried to simultaneously select for both GridMaster and HerdBuilder when in reality one could never fit both production scenarios with the same cowherd.

Using the new indices

Moving forward, producers who sell their calves at weaning and raise their own replacements might be represented by HerdBuilder.  And, if those same cow calf producers want to build the reputation for high value feeder calves there is nothing wrong with selecting for HerdBuilder while keeping minimum standards on GridMaster as well.  GridMaster will still work well for those outfits that buy all their replacements and feed their entire calf crop.  Operations that raise their own replacements but also retain ownership might find ProS to be a better fit.

Notable though, just grabbing the ProS index and using it indiscriminately, might not be the best thing to do. Rather use it as a tool. ProS is basically (not exactly) the sum of the individuals HerdBuilder and GridMaster indices.  If you begin to pay attention, you will see that an individual can be very high in either GridMaster or HerdBuilder, causing its ProS to be higher, but not necessarily in the balance you may need for your program.  Always keep an eye on all three indices, making sure you get a balance for the traits that are most important to your breeding program.  

To illustrate this, we did a search of sires with high ProS index.  For our example, both Sire A and Sire B are in the top 10% for ProS.   Notice that Sire A is in the top 47% for HB and the top 7% for GM and Sire B is in the top 7% for HB and 35% for GM.   

From the indices, we looked at the accuracy of their EPDs (which is certainly something that should be considered when using the data portion of your selection process).  Sire B had superior accuracy in the basic traits.  Sire A had adequate accuracy but could experience some movement in his EPD suite.

BullProS IndexProS % RankHB IndexHB % RankGM IndexGM % Rank
Sire A15110%7847%737%
Sire B15210%1067%4635%

THUS, choose a seedstock provider that you can trust and one that is actually reporting data to create accuracy in the EPDs that will be used to calculate the indices.  Last but not least, a visual appraisal for type, feet and function should always be considered when selecting genetics.