New Selection Tools for Heat Tolerance in Angus Cattle

June 4, 2020 3:51 pm

Off the back of wider use of Angus genetics in Northern Australia and a warming climate, Angus Australia have unveiled its initial steps to identifying heat tolerance in Angus cattle.

During the Autumn Angus CONNECT Research and Development Update, streamed on the 26th of May, Strategic Projects Manager Christian Duff discussed the importance of heat tolerance in Angus cattle. During the presentation, Mr Duff announced the release of a Coat Type Research Breeding Value (RBV) which was developed in a collaborative project with the University of New England (UNE).

An initial list sires with Coat Type RBVs is available from the Research section on the Angus Australia website.

“Coat type represents Angus Australia’s first step in identifying Angus cattle that may have improved heat tolerance on a genetic level. It was an obvious first step into this space as it enabled us to leverage the 10 years’ worth of coat type scores Angus Australia collected through the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program” said Mr Duff.

Short, slick coats, common in Bos indicus and tropically adapted breeds, are associated with an animal’s ability to tolerate heat. Selecting for a slick coat is also a common bull selection criteria for northern beef producers.

During his presentation, Mr Duff highlighted that heat tolerance is becoming an increasingly important topic, given that Angus is a temperate Bos taurus breed.

“Angus originated from Scotland but have been in Australia for some 200 years, in which time we have seen some acclimatisation to wide and varied geographic areas and climates. Considering the increasing amount of Angus and Angus influenced genetics being utilised in hotter, northern environments and the increase in extreme heat events across all of Australia, this is an area that requires further understanding.”

“Angus genetics perform very well in cross breeding systems and offer many advantages such as polledness, fertility, carcase quality and market flexibility. This represents a great opportunity for northern production systems. The addition of heat tolerance traits for bull selection would obviously be very valuable.”

Mr Duff stated that heat stress, in its extreme form, can negatively affect beef production in a variety of ways including reduced feed intake, lowering fertility in both females and bulls and decreasing meat quality. The negative impacts on production, coupled with the welfare and social licence ramifications, are the predominant drivers for further research.

“Underpinning the Coat Type RBV are coat type scores on Angus cattle. I would encourage Angus Australia members to score their cattle to assist in the further developing this RBV. A pipeline is also being developed to provide Coat Type RBVs back on cattle that have been scored and their sires” said Mr Duff.

In addition to coat score, other phenotypic traits under considerations for further research include hair shedding score, temperature and performance during heat events.

For more information on the recently released Coat Type RBV, its collection procedure and the importance of heat tolerance in Angus cattle please visit the Education Centre on the Angus Australia website, or contact staff at Angus Australia.