Angus Australia celebrated 10 Years of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program at the recent Angus Research Update and ASBP Cohort 8 Steer Viewing, held at the University of New England (UNE) Tullimba Feedlot on November 27th, 2019.
The event represented the final centenary event for the society and hosted over 70 attendees from across the country to hear about the latest research developments from Angus Australia.
Participants used the morning to inspect ~300 Cohort 8 steers identified to their sire within the program before a barbeque lunch of Black Onyx striploin, a Verified Black Angus Beef brand from Rangers Valley, cooked by UNE Meat Science, to celebrate 10 years of the ASBP and Angus Australia’s centenary.
Presentations kicked off with a word from Angus Australia CEO Peter Parnell, who thanked the many important collaborators, members, staff and supporters involved within the ASBP over the last ten years.
“It has been a really successful project not only for Angus Australia and those breeders that have put cattle into the program over the years, but also for the industry and for the advancement of science.”
Mr Parnell acknowledged the breeders who nominated and supplied sires into the program, as well as those who provided co-operator cow herds and stressed the importance that those involved have had, to the development of the program over the ten years.
Over the 10 years, there have been over 353 sires from 143 different prefixes.
“The sire benchmarking program sees people nominate sires to go into the program, to generate progeny from those sires and measure them intensively. Without the support of those breeders, not only nominating bulls in the program but by being strong advocates for the project in the industry and in our breed, is another reason why we have been able to be so successful in the project.”
“A very important part of the program has been the various co-operator herds. We have had some really excellent co-operators over the years, some of these guys are basically commercial herds that we have really enforced upon a heavy regime of artificial breeding and measurement that many stud herds don’t even do, so it’s been a great credit to them.”
“We have also been able to link in with NSW DPI, some of their research properties, the University of Queensland, and we are now very pleased to have Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga involved as well. Linking in with those groups has meant we have been able to involve other research in the project and get students involved.”
Christian Duff, Strategic Projects Manager, presented an update on the latest developments to come out of Angus Australia.
Reflecting on the objectives of program, Mr Duff highlighted the progression of the program from its formative stages through to the extension of the program into 2023.
Emphasising the importance of the Angus reference population and the work that the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program, Mr Duff highlighted that there are just under 100,000 progeny registered with Angus Australia from bulls represented through the program.
“That number alone is pretty representative of the progeny out there that are not only being used in the sire benchmarking program, but in the industry, which is pretty important for the reference population.”
In his presentation, Dr Brad Hine, Research Scientist, CSIRO spoke about the work being undertaken by CSIRO in collaboration with Angus Australia through the ASBP researching health traits in Angus animals.
“As producers, when we are selecting bulls to use in our herds, we generally have a lot of information on productivity traits, carcase traits and commonly measured traits. One thing we don’t have access to is information around health traits. The work that we have been doing is really trying to focus on measuring health traits in Angus to allow you as Angus producers to put some pressure on selecting for health traits.”
“One of the take home messages I hope to give you today is that it’s very easy to think that by selecting for productivity that we are also selecting for health, and that those animals that are most productive are the ones with the best immune systems but there is more and more evidence mounting up that this is not the case. When you select heavily for productivity you increase susceptibility to disease.”
Dr Hine shared information with the group regarding research breeding value ImmuneDEX, developed through the collaborative work between CSIRO and Angus Australia through the testing of the immune competence of animals in the program.
The ImmuneDEX breeding value is the genetic description of an animal’s ability to react to an immune system challenge (ie disease). This process tested approximately 3000 Angus animals’ susceptibility to infection when at their most stressed, which was testing at weaning.
The information now available through the ImmuneDEX breeding value will assist beef producers to make decisions about what the best animals are to breed from into the future with the goal of improving animal health, while simultaneously improving productivity.
“One of the challenges facing the beef industry today is maintaining consumer confidence in beef products,” said Dr Hine.
“Consumers are increasing aware and concerned about the use of antibiotics in animals that are producing their food, and of course you hear a lot also about them being very concerned about the health and welfare of the animals that are part of those production systems.”
“It’s really important as an industry that we work hard at developing strategies to improve health welfare and start to reduce the use of antibiotics in our systems.”
Whilst this breeding value is still in its formative research stage, there are currently a list of sires in the ASBP rated on their ImmuneDEX value according to the research undertaken on their progeny.
Dr Tom Granleese of UNE gave insight into the work being undertaken by himself and Dr Sam Clark through the ‘Breeding Better Breeders’ research project, a partnership between Angus Australia and UNE School of Environmental and Rural Science.
The project focuses on better describing the genetics of Angus animals for traits associated with the maintenance requirements of the female breeding herd, female longevity, structural soundness and fertility.
Dr Granleese presented the findings of the research in its current stages and touched on what he presented to the audience regarding the work being undertaken through the research program.
“We looked at some genetic parameter estimations regarding coat type and mature cow body composition traits, such as mature hip height and mature body condition score at weaning time. We found that there was a strong negative correlation between mature body condition score and milk and weaning time.”
Through the presentations, Dr Granleese stressed the importance of continued collection measurements for mature cow hip height, to allow for the further investigation and development into understanding on how those measurements can be better utilised by producers in terms of breeding values.
“There are not a lot of mature age traits measured apart from mature cow weight. We can generate research breeding values if there is measurement and variation, and obviously some of these traits are economically important, which is why Angus Australia is getting us to investigate them.”
Through their research already, Dr Granleese and Dr Clark have already made strides using the information already provided.
“We also able to give some sire research breeding values for coat type, hip height and body condition score at weaning.”
ASBP Consultative Committee Chair Steve Chase, Waitara Angus, highlighted the day’s events, and the big take home messages for attendees.
“Today we have celebrated 10 years of Angus Sire Benchmarking, which is a tremendous achievement and hopefully we get another ten, or more, years out of the program. We’ve seen some really new achievements such as the immune competency, which looks really exciting to be able to breed cattle that are more genetically resistant to disease.”
“We also looked at the Breeding better Breeders, so we really want to concentrate on getting those cows that are really efficient to stay in our herds for a long time, going in calf and understanding what we need to be measuring and what we need to be collecting to make sure that we breed the best cows that we possibly can that also fit those markets that we are all chasing.”
“We also has the opportunity to look through all the steers that are here at Tullimba on feed for the their net feed intake testing and it’s really good to see such high quality cattle, and go through and have a look at the sires represented and get a really good idea of what cattle people are bringing out and what we can achieve.”
Special thanks goes to the following supporters of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program:
Meat and Livestock Australia
University of New England
NSW Government, Primary Industries