10 Years of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program

July 31, 2019 11:22 am

From a humble beginning of 906 Angus calves from 35 Angus sires bred in 2010, to now having more than 8,500 calves from 299 sires, the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program (ASBP) has come a long way.

More importantly, vital data has been collected on the ASBP animals which is giving cattle breeders using Angus genetics higher accuracy Estimated Breeding Values for commercially relevant traits.

Angus Australia’s Strategic Project Manager, Mr Christian Duff explained “this was particularly valuable for hard-to-measure traits collected on ASBP animals in areas such as beef quality and quantity, female reproduction and immune response. The project data also enables effective utilisation of genomic based technologies.”

The ASBP is the flagship research and development initiative undertaken by Angus Australia with the main aim of building a highly effective reference population of genotypes and phenotypes on contemporary Australian Angus cattle.

Mr Duff added “The program allows cattle breeders using Angus genetics to stay at the cutting edge of breeding technologies and rates of genetic gain for commercial production and profit.”

The 10-year milestone also coincides with the recent decision to extend the program to include Cohort 9 (2019 born calves), Cohort 10 (2020 born calves) and Cohort 11 (2021 born calves). Combined with previous Cohorts (1 to 8), this will produce a reference population of over 12,000 Angus animals from 400 Angus sires. Importantly, the progeny are genotyped and their phenotypes comprehensively measured from birth to slaughter for steers, and from birth to first parity for heifers.

As the program outcomes flow on to the commercial beef industry, the ASBP attracts co-funding support through the MLA Donor Company scheme. Research and supply chain partnerships are also important for a program of this scale and complexity.

“Partnerships are critical to ASBP. This includes valued support from Angus Australia members nominating bulls, co-operator cow herd owners, supply chain partners such as Rangers Valley feedlot Vetoquinol for artificial reproduction advice and genotyping companies. Without their support the ASBP would basically not happen.” Mr Duff said.

“Collaboration with research organisations are also vital and involves groups such as the University of New England, CSIRO, NSW DPI and ALMTech.”

Chair of the ASBP Consultative Committee, Stephen Chase, Waitara Angus, highlights the benefits of being involved in the program,

“The ASBP has benefited the industry in many ways, helping to ensure that TACE is a tool breeders can trust.  It has provided a quality reference population that has phenotypes for many traits.  It has provided a population to study new, harder to measure traits including immune competency, retail beef yield, feed efficiency, emissions, structure and other added extras.

“It has helped improve the methods of data collection to allow more efficient and safer processes, identifying what works and what doesn’t.  It has been used to identify new influential sires that can be used to optimise the level of genetic gain within herds and across the breed.  The ASBP maintains a close relationship with American Angus, thus benefiting from their enormous expertise in R&D, and the knowledge they gain from the massive Angus population in the USA.”

Cow Herd Representative on the ASBP Consultative Committee Richard Puddicombe of Burindi Station, Paraway Pastoral Company, said the following,

“The ASBP provides good analysis of local and overseas sires and compares their genetic worth on a level playing field,” he said.

“Not only does this provide good information for commercial and stud breeders, researchers are able to gather and interpret valuable information that is collected as well.”

When speaking of the personal benefits of ASBP to Angus Australia members and their own operations, Mr Puddicombe said the following,

 “Co-operator herds Cows were AI’d last year to the 9th Cohort of Bulls in the ASBP programme.  This history of ASBP data gathered has really moved the needle on genetic gain to a stage where bulls we can select this year, simply weren’t available 10 years ago,” Mr Puddicombe said.

“Stud breeders are now also achieving good success in breeding desirable but antagonistic traits, into Angus animals, which is amazing.”

He continued, “Validation of genetic traits provided in this programme has helped make Angus TACE EBV’s very reliable.  This means you can set and reach breeding targets and outcomes in a far more reliable way.”

Mr Chase said the following,

“The ASBP has been a great tool to benchmark my stud and commercial herds.  As a bull owner it has allowed me great linkages and therefore increased the usefulness of data submitted from my stud herd.  It provides me with a great proof on any bull entered, with calves coming in from a number of herds and excellent data being provided.  Bull owners also receive great publicity for their young sires.”

“As a co-operator herd the ASBP gives me access to some fantastic young bulls and allows me to see first-hand how bulls are performing without having to rely on the often biased opinions & reports of others.  As a co-operator herd we get to see for ourselves that TACE truly works – having a large contemporary group of calves with several by each sire it is often very clear to see the genetic differences & trends.”

“I find being a co-operator herd gives me the ability to benchmark my herd against other co-operator herds and allows me to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our program.  Co-operators also get the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazingly talented and knowledgeable people.”

He continued, “As members we get to use the wealth of information gained through the ASBP to make more informed breeding decisions.  Any sire that has gone through the program gains in accuracy of his EBVs, with benefits through his pedigree, DNA profiles and progeny as well. “

“The measurements and studies going on within the program are always being enhanced, always adapting, and all that information and knowledge goes directly to improving data collection methods, data analysis and EBVs for the whole Australian Angus breed.  We can be confident as a breed that we are using all the technologies that are available to help us understand where our Angus population is now genetically, and the directions we need to take to make the cattle more profitable for all sectors of the industry.

Top Image: Cooperator calves from Cohort 4 2014 being viewed at Burindi

A presentation outlining the achievements of the ASBP was delivered at the Angus National Conference in Albury, May 23rd and 24th 2019.