The Angus bulls offered for sale across the 2020 spring bull selling season represented the best offering of Angus genetics to the Australian beef breeding sector and supply chain ever seen.
That was the message from a recent study undertaken by Angus Australia that assessed the genetic merit of the Angus bulls offered for sale across the past five years.
The study reviewed the TransTasman Angus Cattle Evaluation Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and associated selection index values of Angus bulls listed in an online sale catalogue on the Angus Australia website with a sale date between June 1st and October 31st each year.
By comparison to the genetics of the bulls offered for sale in the 2016 spring bull selling season, the average Angus Breeding Index (ABI) value of the bulls offered in 2020 were $14 per female mated more profitable, representing an average improvement in the genetic merit of Angus bulls of $3.44 per female mated per year across the past 5 years.
This indicates an increased return of $1,050 from an average bull purchased in 2020, by comparison to an average bull in 2016, assuming the same market conditions and that a bull is joined to 150 females in his working life.
Most of the improved profitability was achieved through an increase in the genetics for growth while holding birth weight, resulting in improved calving ease coupled with heavier carcase weight at a given age. Improvements in the genetics for eating quality were also observed, illustrating the continued commitment of Angus breeders to improved marbling.
A more detailed overview of the change in average EBVs and selection index values of the Angus bulls offered for sale is presented in Table 1.
“A lot of time is spent reviewing the genetic improvement that is occurring within the Angus seedstock industry, but this study is the first to confirm that similar genetic improvement is also being realised in the commercial industry”, said Mr Andrew Byrne, Breed Development & Extension Manager at Angus Australia.
The improvements in the genetics of the Angus bulls being offered for sale mirror the annual rate of genetic improvement in the Angus seedstock sector which now exceeds the rate observed in the early to mid 2000s” (see figure 1).
“The genetic improvement in the Angus breed is the result of the commitment of Angus seedstock breeders to the utilisation of technology within their breeding programs” Mr Byrne said.
Renowned for being early adopters of technology, use of the tools available to the modern cattle breeder continues to be high amongst the Angus seedstock sector.
Approximately 40,000 Angus seedstock calves are bred using either artificial insemination or embryo transfer each year, representing over 50% of the calves bred by Angus seedstock breeders (see figure 2).
“The high use of reproductive technologies is not only enabling the Australian Angus industry to widely disseminate the genetics of superior animals, but also to tap into the vast gene pool of Angus genetics available internationally”, Mr Byrne said.
Coupled with the utilisation of the latest reproductive technologies, Angus breeders remain committed to performance recording, and in recent time the adoption of genomic technologies.
“The considerable investment of Angus seedstock breeders in performance recording and genomics is improving the accuracy with which the genetics of Angus breeding animals are described, which in turn, facilitates the identification of animals with superior genetics for use in Angus breeding programs”, Mr Byrne said.
The TransTasman Angus Cattle Evaluation reached a significant milestone in September 2020 with the inclusion of 100,000 genotypes in the TransTasman Angus Cattle Evaluation for Australian Angus animals (see figure 3).
“Over 32,000 Angus animals have been genomically tested with either the HD50K for Angus or Angus GS products in the past 12 months, which coupled with the availability of a large, well recorded genomic reference population, is considerably increasing the accuracy of the breeding values available for Angus seedstock animals”, Mr Byrne said.
The annual investment of ~$1.65 million in genomic technology builds on the long term commitment of Angus breeders to performance recording.
While the level of recording traditional traits like birth weight, 200, 400 and 600 day weight, scrotal circumference and live animal ultrasound measurements remains high, recent years has seen an increase in the recording of traits like docility and mature body composition.
Cattleman using Angus genetics within their beef enterprise can rest easy knowing that the Angus seedstock industry is, and will continue to utilise the latest breeding and genetic technologies that are available, and in turn, deliver more and more profitable Angus genetics to the Australian beef supply chain each year.