Characterizing Maternal Traits

MaternalPlus® offers Angus breeders practical herd analytics while laying the groundwork for future genetic selection tools.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 4, 2014) — Angus breeders have done a very good job of characterizing the breed and developing expected progeny differences (EPDs) for moderately to highly heritable traits such as growth and carcass traits, said Tonya Amen. “Now it is our job to start collecting data and developing tools for those traits that are harder to develop selection tools for — the lowly-heritable traits like the reproductive traits.”

During the Angus Means Business National Convention & Trade Show in Kansas City, Mo., the director of genetic services for Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) and the American Angus Association explained a voluntary inventory-based reporting system designed to do just that. Presenting during the breed improvement breakout session Nov. 4, Amen explained the MaternalPlus® program, including its requirements and benefits to enrollment.

To participate in the program, producers must enroll their entire herd (including recipient females), she explained. So, the first step is often to clean up your herd inventory to make sure every active female in the Association database is actually in your herd. The fee to enroll is $3 per cow, while heifers are enrolled for free.

“After you clean up your cow herd, you need to submit heifer breeding records every year,” Amen said, noting that the Association provides a spreadsheet to simplify data submission, or you can use your current method of data submission.

“Then every year for every female in your inventory you need to submit a calf record,” Amen said, explaining that might be a weaning weight or a reason why there is no weaning weight. “Did you get rid of the cow? Why did she leave the herd? Did the cow not have a calf? Did the calf die for some reason prior to weaning?”

Program benefits

“When you submit that calf record, we do give you a calving ease, a weaning weight and a birth weight EPD before you even register the calves,” Amen emphasized, noting one of the benefits of enrolling in MaternalPlus.  

She described several helpful herd analytics available only to MaternalPlus enrollees. Under the MaternalPlus tab of AAA Login (, program participants can access production performance reports including:

One of the critical elements of the program is reporting dam disposal records, Amen noted.

“This allows you to watch these things from year to year and see the reason cows are leaving your herd,” she explained, noting potential disposal reasons ranging from going to the donor pen to weather to fertility problems. “The cool thing about having these disposal codes is when we go to develop tools for you related to lifetime productivity, it allows us to give credit to animals leaving the herd for things that aren’t their fault and to penalize those for things like fertility that really are what we’re wanting to get at with cow productivity.”

To increase visibility of those participating in MaternalPlus, Amen said, enrollees will soon have access to a newly designed MaternalPlus logo to include in advertising and sale books. The Association’s Public Relations Department is also developing sale book inserts and advertisements for enrollees to use. Options will include generic promotion for MaternalPlus or options customizable to a producer’s operation.

Another benefit to enrollees will be periodic mention in the Angus Journal and the Angus Beef Bulletin, she noted.

Amen spoke during the Breed Improvement Workshop Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 4. For more information about the Angus Means Business National Convention & Trade Show, visit and watch future editions of the Angus Journal.


Editor's Note: This article was written by staff or for the Angus Journal®. It is available for reprint upon request to editor Shauna Hermel. Photos are available upon request.

ANGUS MEANS BUSINESS. The American Angus Association is the nation’s largest beef breed organization, serving nearly 25,000 members across the United States and Canada. It provides programs and services to farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the power of Angus to produce quality genetics for the beef industry and quality beef for consumers. For more information about Angus cattle and the American Angus Association’s programs and services, visit