Angus Australia has launched new tools to increase the accuracy of genetic information about Angus cattle and increase its use.
Breed development and extension manager Andrew Byrne said genomics – which in simple terms is the study of the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism – has been incorporated into Angus BREEDPLAN since 2011, and the numbers of animals whose genomes were recorded each year was increasingly exponentially.
He said incorporating genomic information into BREEDPLAN estimated breeding values (EBVs) had been done in a multi-step process –first to use pedigrees and performance data to make EBVs; second to use genomic data to calculate genomic predictions; and then thirdly to combine this information into genomic-enhanced EBVs.
He said a new procedure would combine this data in a single-step analysis.
“The software for us was developed by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit in Armidale, it moves from that multi-step approach to what we call a single-step approach or a single-step analysis.
“If we look at the main changes, instead of having those three different steps, it now basically takes the genomic information at the raw SNIP level [and] all gets combined with the pedigree performance data within the one main analysis,” Mr Byrne said.
Mr Byrne said the single-step analysis would see breeders start to look at the “actual relationship between animals at the real gene level” instead on “pedigree relationships” which made many assumptions, such as full siblings have a 50 per cent genetic relationship with one another.
He said key benefits included overcoming pedigree errors and putting more appropriate emphasis on pedigree, performance and genomic information based on an animal’s relationship to reference population.
He said the more accurate genomic-enhanced EBVs would mean they had to be reassessed much less often.
He said they had an “ambitious” target to roll out this change by December, and that time of year was chosen because it was decided that it would be less disruptive to people marketing animals that could go up or down in rankings because of the changed methodology.
The second major development Mr Byrne announced was the launch of Angus HeiferSELECT – a genomic selection tool for commercial Angus females.
It is available to heifers of 87.5 per cent black Angus content or greater, in programs using registered Australian Angus bulls.
Based on genomic predictions coupled with Angus BREEDPLAN EBV information of known relatives, the tool provides Total Breeding Value; eight key maternal, growth and carcase traits; DNA sire identification and a star rating.
Mr Byrne said more accurate selection of replacement heifers in commercial herd meant producers would retain females with higher genetic merit. He said it could help in bull selection, including to address areas of improvement, and to manage inbreeding. He said information from tested heifers could be used in marketing opportunities.
The tool’s support and sales is being jointly delivered by Angus Australia and Zoetis. It is now in pilot test stage and Mr Byrne said they were aiming for a commercial release on July 1.