The Angus Sire Benchmarking Project (ASBP) was developed with the objectives of providing progeny test data on modern Australian Angus bulls; assemble data for the validation and refinement of Angus BREEDPLAN; and build a reference population of genotypes and phenotypes for genetic analysis and research and development.
Steer progeny are recorded from birth through to slaughter where meat samples are collected for analysis.
Female progeny are recorded from birth through to when they are joined as yearlings and the birth of their first calf.
Each cohort takes between 3-3.5 years from joining to seeing the steers come out of a long fed program.
Christian highlighted that in the 10 years since the ASBP began, the objective of building a reference population, has become the most relevant.
‘It enables Angus breeders to take full advantage of genomic technologies. We can only utilise the genomic tools effectively, as a group of breeders if we have a good reference population. That is cattle that are well recorded with a genomic profile and also have the hard to measure commercially relevant traits recorded.’
In determining whether or not the ASBP is proving a good reference population, that is representative of the population from which breeding animal selection occurs, Christian highlighted that cohorts 1-9 had seen 321 sires, with 9,409 progeny born.
4,500 steers have been phenotyped comprehensively from birth to slaughter and a similar number of heifers have been phenotyped from birth to first parity. All sires and progeny have genomic profiles.
From the 321 sires, 90,876 progeny have been registered with Angus Australia, (not just from ASBP herds) across 808 member herds. 171 of the ASBP sires have 100 or more progeny registered with Angus Australia.
Highlighting that the reference population is related to the general Angus population.
Looking at the Mid-May 2019 BREEDPLAN analysis, 18% of the animals evaluated came from the ASBP.
Additionally the ASBP records other traits that are not yet included in the BREEDPLAN analysis, including; immune competence, MSA grad traits, shear force, fatty acid profile, carcase grading camera, methane emission, heat tolerance, flight time, coat score, structural scores and muscle scores
The importance of building this reference population means that we can look to get higher accuracies for these hard to measure traits.
‘If we want higher accuracies, we need more animals in our reference population, we really are at the tip of the iceberg for the hard to measure traits, we need more data to keep moving along.’
In summary, the ASBP, with Angus breeders, are building a very effective reference population, particularly for hard to measure, commercially important traits; underpinning current genetic analysis and future opportunties for genomic technologies for Angus cattle breeding; BREEDPLAN EBVs work; and looking to the future we need to continue to build the reference population and look at new research breeding values.