"It's a pretty expensive proposition if you have to supplement those cows to maintain body condition, weight and rebreed rate," he said. "If you're comfortable with the cow condition and rebreed rate with minimal supplementation, chances are you're pretty close to the level of milk that you need. If cows are thin and failing to conceive, maybe you've got too much milk in your cows for the environment they're working in."

Dollar index EPDs, composite EPDs that combine several traits into a single value, can help producers narrow down their selections.

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"They're a great way to scan through some bulls to sort out what kind of bull will work for a particular situation," Lemenager said. "However, realize that these indexes are multi-trait numbers."

Producers should still look at the individual EPDs that make up the index to make sure the bull will fit their herd situation.

EPDs should only be used to compare bulls of the same breed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat Animal Research Center generates and updates an across breed EPD table each year to help compare bulls of different breeds.

For more information visit http://www.marc.usda.gov.

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