New Era for Genetic Evaluation of Australian Angus Cattle

November 30, 2017 7:00 am

The December 2017 Angus BREEDPLAN analysis has heralded a new era for the genetic evaluation of Angus cattle in Australia with the implementation of a new and improved approach for incorporating genomic, or DNA information into the calculation of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs).

The new approach, referred to as single step analytical software, replaces the traditional, multi-step process for incorporating genomic information with a new process that 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.

The implementation of the new approach into the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation is a result of collaborative research and development over recent years between the Animal Genetics & Breeding Unit (AGBU), the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), Angus Australia, and the New Zealand Angus Association, with funding assistance from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

Angus Australia’s Breed Development & Extension Manager, Mr Andrew Byrne explained the new single step analytical approach ensures Angus breeders have access to the latest genetic evaluation technology, with similar analytical models having recently being implemented into other major animal breeding genetic evaluations around the world.

“The new approach will ensure the EBVs published for Angus animals provide the best possible prediction of their genetic merit”, said Mr Byrne.

“Having the most reliable breeding values available on Angus animals will assist Angus breeders to select the cattle that are carrying genetics most aligned with their breeding objective, with more informed selection decisions facilitating genetic improvement within Angus breeding programs”, explained Mr Byrne.

The Angus breed has long led the Australian beef industry with the application of breeding and genetic technologies, and the application of genomics is no different.

Genomic information has been incorporated into the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation since April 2011, with genomic profiles now analysed in Angus BREEDPLAN for over 30,000 animals.

“The new single step analytical model revolutionises the whole approach to incorporating genomics in Angus BREEDPLAN”, explained Dr Brad Crook, Manager, Genetics Research and Development at ABRI.

“Rather than blending genomic predictions with traditional EBVs, the single step analytical software combines the pedigree, performance and genomic information from the start, one process, with all sources of information being used together”.

“This means the genomic information contributes directly to EBVs and accuracies, without requiring external prediction equations, and contributes to all traits in the main multi-trait Angus BREEDPLAN analysis, not just a sub-set of traits for which prediction equations exist”, said Dr Crook

In addition, the influence of genomics extends beyond those animals that were genotyped, with a flow-on effect to relatives of these genotyped animals.

Dr Crook explained that “the single step analytical software also takes account of the actual degree of relationship between genotyped animals and their genetic proximity to the animals in the reference population, being the population of Angus animals that have both genotypes and phenotypes for a particular trait”.

The end result is the calculation of the EBVs for Angus animals that represent the best estimate of their genetic merit, ultimately arming Angus breeders with tools that will ensure the profitability of Angus genetics continues to increase throughout all segments of the beef supply chain.

The EBVs for all Angus animals have been re-estimated in the December 2017 Angus BREEDPLAN analysis using the new analytical model and can now be accessed from the Database Search facility on the Angus Australia website.

Angus Australia has also made a technical bulletin available from their website that provides more information on the new approach for incorporating genomic information into the calculation of Angus BREEDPLAN EBVs.

For more information, please contact Andrew Byrne, Angus Australia’s Breed Development & Extension Manager on (02) 6773 4618, or andrew@angusaustralia.com.au

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