Improvements to Angus BREEDPLAN

November 14, 2017 11:21 am

Angus BREEDPLAN continues to be the central component of Angus Australia’s Breed Development program. With approximately 630 Angus Australia members enrolled in Angus BREEDPLAN, and more than 300,000 performance records recorded on over 75,000 calves annually, Angus BREEDPLAN remains the largest and most comprehensive genetic evaluation of beef cattle in Australia.

Angus BREEDPLAN is constantly evolving and several research initiatives are underway to ensure the EBVs being calculated within Angus BREEDPLAN provide the best possible prediction of an animal’s genetic merit.

Calculation of EBVs for North American Animals

Angus BREEDPLAN incorporates EPDs for American Black and Red Angus, Canadian Black and Red Angus, and American Brangus animals in order to improve the calculation of EBVs for North American genetics that have been imported into Australia.

Research is underway at the Animal Genetics & Breeding Unit (AGBU) in Armidale to update the parameters that are utilised when incorporating the North American EPDs to ensure that the parameters appropriately accommodate the analytical changes that have occurred within the overseas genetic evaluations in recent years.

In addition, AGBU is reviewing the methodology that is used when incorporating EPD information, with new software being developed that more appropriately utilises EPD information when calculating EBVs, especially in situations when an animal has genomic information recorded in both Angus BREDPLAN and the overseas genetic evaluation.

Concurrent to this research at AGBU, Angus Australia has been in discussions with the American Angus Association and is close to finalising an agreement that will facilitate the exchange of EPD information more regularly, and on a greater range of animals.

Once completed, these three initiatives will improve the calculation of EBVs for North American animals, and their relatives, within the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation.

Re-estimation of Genetic Parameters

One of the key ingredients of the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation are the genetic parameters that are utilised when calculating EBVs, with the genetic parameters customised to appropriately reflect the performance information that has been collected on Angus animals in Australia and New Zealand.

The genetic parameters include such things as the heritability of traits, the correlations between different traits, and the adjustment factors that are used to adjust performance measurements for non-genetic differences such as age or age of dam.

Research has now commenced to utilise the comprehensive performance information that has been collected in the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program to re-estimate the genetic parameters that are utilised within Angus BREEDPLAN. This research is particularly focussed on the hard to measure traits, such as feed efficiency, carcase yield and quality, where a considerable amount of additional performance information has been collected on modern Angus animals.

Once completed, this research will be used to “fine tune” the Angus BREEDPLAN analysis, resulting in improvements to the EBVs that are routinely calculated for Angus animals.

Development of Single Step Analytical Software

Genomic information, when combined with pedigree and performance information, provides valuable additional accuracy to the calculation of EBVs, particularly in situations when the animal’s existing EBV is of low accuracy.

Angus Australia is working collaboratively with staff at the Animal Genetics & Breeding Unit (AGBU), the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), and the New Zealand Angus Association, to implement a new approach for incorporating genomic information into the calculation of EBVs within Angus BREEDPLAN.

Known as “single step”, the new analytical model simultaneously utilises genomic, pedigree and performance information, placing appropriate emphasis on all available sources of information, to generate the best possible prediction of an animal’s breeding value.

Once available, the new analytical model will greatly improve the utilisation of genomic information within Angus BREEDPLAN, resulting in the calculation of improved EBVs for Angus animals.

Calculation of EBVs for Additional Traits

Angus BREEDPLAN currently calculates EBVs for 25 traits, with EBVs relating to calving ease, fertility, growth, carcase yield and quality, docility, structural soundness and feed efficiency.

While the current EBVs describe the genetic merit of Angus animals for many traits of economic importance within the beef supply chain, Angus Australia is proactively working with several research organisations to improve the scope of the EBVs that are calculated in Angus BREEDPLAN, and in turn, to provide a genetic description of Angus and Angus-influenced seedstock for a wider number of traits.

Current research is focussed on improving the genetic description of traits such as:

  • Eating quality (e.g. marble score, ossification)
  • Meat quality (e.g. marbling fineness, fatty acid composition, mineral content)
  • Adaptability to northern Australian production systems (e.g. coat score, adaptation)
  • Animal resilience (e.g. immune competence)
  • Cow maintenance efficiency (e.g. mature condition score, mature height)
  • Female reproduction (e.g. age of puberty)

To further discuss any of the research that is underway to improve the calculation of EBVs within Angus BREEDPLAN, please contact staff at Angus Australia. Further details regarding each respective item will be circulated as the research is completed, and subsequently, when the implementation of the research outcome into the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation has been scheduled.

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