‘Angus breeders have been making a lot of genetic progress and a lot of genetic gain for a long period of time.’ Which according to Dr Sam Clark, has been done for a purpose, to improve animals, meat quality, yield and growth.
But what about the cows? Looking at recording statistics, there are very few cow production traits that have been recorded.
For Sam this is ‘especially important if we are wanting to try and breed our cows in different environments with different energy requirements’.
Breeders need to look towards the future and have a better breeding program, and as such in conjunction with Angus Australia Sam highlighted that research is being conducted into the efficiencies of the cow herd.
Looking into other traits that have been recorded, mature cow body condition and mature cow height have been collected along with the mature cow weights.
‘Combine these with how heavy the cows are we might be able to start to unravel how efficient a cow can be.’
These traits are important in production systems because cows use stored energy to stay alive and energy to get in calf.
Looking at the collected data, ‘We want to know if there is genetic variation for mature cows, are the traits correlated to each other or other traits, and when we are making selection decisions we need to know what effects this will have on herd production’.
‘At the end of the day we want to make sure that what we are predicting is genetic and not management.’
Sam highlighted that because cows can change over time, we may need to consider taking measurements at a certain time or have to do it at multiple time points.
In order for breeders to get involved, ‘Measurement of mature cow traits is needed, the impact of time of measurement is still unknown, so we need to look at recording at both joining and weaning.’
With the overall aim of the project to determine if ‘The cows with higher or lower body condition tend to have more calves or less calves.’
Recording protocols have been put together by Angus Australia for breeders to refer to and reference populations for genomic technologies are needed.
‘So, if you are going to the effort to record all those traits it may worthwhile genotyping those individuals as well, for reference to make better predictions for the future.’