Autumn 2020 SBTS & TBTS Update

Page 1


Re-Building Herds After Adversity While we had started to prepare this article prior to the outbreak of the Summer 2019/2020 fires, we are aware that there are a number of beef producers that have been affected by this ongoing fire situation. Our thoughts are with you and all that have been impacted during this difficult time.


here have been a number of natural disasters around Australia in recent times; for example, ongoing drought conditions across much of the eastern states, localised

flooding in large areas of northern Australia and, more recently, widespread bushfires. In addition, disease outbreak is an ever present risk which can also lead to a loss of breeding animals. SBTS & TBTS want to acknowledge the difficulties faced by those affected by all natural disasters, and to offer advice on artificial breeding and genetic strategies that may assist in the recovery of valuable breeding herds. Artificial Breeding A number of artificial breeding techniques can assist with

check, requires an increased emphasis on calving ease in the

rebuilding a herd after adversity. While artificial breeding has

bulls used.

numerous advantages, it does require an investment of time and money which may not be suitable after a period of adversity

Artificial Insemination (AI) - AI can be used in herd recovery

and its associated challenges. Additionally if cows are in poor

in multiple ways. Firstly, AI can allow the use of sires that are

condition, the conception rates from an artificial breeding

no longer physically available, allowing breeders to reintroduce

program may be negatively affected. Fortunately, mature cows

certain bloodlines. This requires some pre-planning as semen

typically recover body condition quickly but there are a number

needs to be collected before the bull is removed from the

of considerations when mating maiden heifers. The following

enterprise (if possible). This illustrates the value of maintaining

considerations apply to both natural service and artificial

a genetic bank of your top bulls as insurance against their loss.

breeding programs in heifers: n

They should be at sufficient joining weight: it is weight not

Secondly, sexed semen can be used to influence the progeny sex

age that triggers puberty. This might be tough if young heifers

ratio and is offered by a number of semen resellers. There are a

have had their growth stunted due to adversity and/or have

number of scenarios where producing single sex progeny can be

been weaned early.

extremely valuable when recovering from adversity:


Ideally heifers should be gaining weight at the time of joining.


Mating heifers, particularly those that have had a growth

n Where

the reduction in herd size means that there is

insufficient cows to produce enough bulls (assuming a

SBTS & TBTS provide a national extension network for genetic technologies for the Australian beef seedstock industry 1

normal 50:50 sex ratio) to meet expected sales, using male sexed semen will increase the proportion of males born in order to meet the sales targets. However, this will occur at the cost of available female replacements from which to choose.



will allow breeders to quickly rebuild their breeding herds back to their normal size

Re-Building Herds After

and/or sell heifers to others. With the reduction in female numbers due to recent

Adversity 1

adversity, such heifers are likely to be more valuable in the short term than steers. n

In a commercial herd, a breeder may also choose to utilise sexed semen to maximise the number of steers they produce while the overall industry population is reduced

Natural Disaster Resources for Livestock Producers

The opposite approach is to use female sexed semen to produce more heifers. This

and the steers are consequently in high demand. If male calves are desired, it may


be appropriate to use your older cows as male calves are typically bigger at birth and thus more likely to cause calving issues. The likelihood of calving issues can also be influenced by bull choice.

Breeding for Production System Efficiency 6


Alternatively, sexed semen could be used to produce commercial crossbred heifers without the need to buy and run bulls of different breeds.

The production of sexed semen involves a machine that sorts the semen into sperm

The Case for Genotyping Females 8

cells with an X chromosome (female) and a Y chromosome (male). The semen sexing process has an accuracy of over 90% and uses a combination of the Y chromosome being lighter, having a negative electrical charge, and the addition of a fluorescent dye

Gestation Length EBVs Released

that binds to the DNA. Roughly 15-18% of the total semen sold within the Australian

for Brahmans

dairy industry is now sexed semen (DataGene, December 2019) and trials have shown


that the conception rate using sexed semen is approximately 90% of that expected using normal semen. Additionally, sexed semen typically costs about twice as much per straw to acquire than normal semen.

A Clearer Image for the Australian Beef Supply Chain


Embryo Transfer (ET) - ET allows multiple progeny to be produced from an individual cow each year. This is advantageous in scenarios where the size of the seedstock cow herd has been reduced but commercial cows are available to implant embryos into. Like

Herefords Australia Releases New Selection Indexes


AI but on a greater scale, there are financial and time costs involved with an ET program and there can also be additional breed society regulations (some mandate DNA testing) and BREEDPLAN recording (of recipient dams) required. Each ET cycle takes about 25 days. In herds where the only available animals of sufficient genetic merit are young

A Seedstock Producer’s Perspective on MateSel


heifers, Juvenile In Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer (JIVET) may be a suitable option as embryos can be harvested from sexually immature females.

AAABG Conference Wrap Up 16

Get Social With SBTS & TBTS


2019 SBTS & TBTS Regional Forums Completed


MLA Livestock Genetics Forum 19

Accessing Support in Application of Genetic Technologies 20 2

Sexed semen can also be utilised to create sexed embryos

carcase traits be given more emphasis? There will be no one

that combine the benefits of sexed semen and ET. However,

right answer for all herds and breeds, and individual breeders

Dominic Bayard from Global Reproduction Solutions (GRS)

are encouraged to think about their and their' clients future

recommends that up to three straws of sexed semen is used

requirements when determining future selection direction(s).

per donor and that better results are achieved by fertilizing

Genetic Diversity and Inbreeding - Heavy culling typically

the embryos a little later in the heat window. GRS also offers

reduces the amount of genetic diversity in a herd as most of

a service that tests the gender of each embryo via an embryo

the retained animals that remain will come from the same

biopsy and subsequent DNA test. This is useful for breeders

high merit families. This has a number of implications for the

that only have mixed sex semen or embryos available to them

herd. Firstly, genetic diversity is a key requirement of avoiding

but has the disadvantage in that half the embryos produced are

inbreeding and the expression of genetic conditions. Secondly,

not of the desired sex.

genetic diversity drives genetic progress because the greater

Breeding Objectives Following Herd Reduction

the difference between the top and bottom animals, the more genetic gain is achieved by culling the bottom animals and/or

While undesirable, a herd rebuild does present opportunities

retaining those at the top.

to improve key components of the breeding program. After all, there is little value in rebuilding seedstock herds with cows

While artificial breeding can be extremely useful, it can reduce

that are not suitable for producing profitable offspring. Having

the genetic diversity of a herd because individual sires and

the right selection objective for the herd’s future, pedigree (for

dams can become parents of more progeny than they would

genetic diversity and inbreeding avoidance), genetic condition

naturally. Thus, full and half siblings will form a greater

status and accurate measures of genetic merit are all important

proportion of the herd and result in less genetic diversity

for the herd’s future success and should be addressed at this

than would occur if only natural mating is utilised. There are


multiple strategies that can be employed to mitigate this. These include ensuring that more than one AI sire is used, multiple

Selection Objectives - Long-term forecasts suggest that

donor dams for ET programs and/or multiple sires in a single

extreme weather events (e.g. flood and drought) are likely to be more frequent and severe. This raises the question of 'What

donor ET flush. Some of these strategies will also increase the

should be the breeding objectives for the future beef animal?'

accuracy of the genetic evaluation by providing more linkage.

Should our objectives include more emphasis on reducing

Another possible strategy is to utilise mate selection software

cow mature size and greenhouse gas emissions and improving

like MateSel (see p15), which balances inbreeding and genetic

fertility, adaptation, and health traits? We are also starting to

diversity levels against genetic progress when determining

see an increased push into value based marketing, so should

mating lists.

an ambitious and ultimately very successful artificial breeding program using stored semen from homebred sires. The flock had already been doing AI but introduced ET, including JIVET, into the breeding program to help compensate for the missing breeding ewes. ET is now standard practice in the flock to aid genetic progress.

Rebuilding After Bushfire: Ashmore White Suffolks / TROY AND NETTE FISCHER In November 2015, the South Australian fires engulfed 80,000 ha including the Fischer property north of Adelaide where 650 White Suffolk stud sheep were destroyed. In order to rebuild the stud, the Fischer’s embarked upon

While reproductive technologies provided the tool to rapidly rebuild the flock, the right selection decisions still had to be made. Troy’s advice to similarly affected breeders is to “rebuild with the best genetics you can get, we were determined not to rebuild with other people’s culls and set ourselves back 10 years.” By investing in the best genetics they could find (females were brought in from 10 other studs) and using artificial breeding to rapidly multiply them, the Ashmore stud had some of the highest merit sheep in Australia again within one generation. Since then the flock has grown in size and is now 50% larger than before the fire. 3

Genetic Conditions - The culling within a herd in response to adversity is a good opportunity to remove those animals that are carriers for genetic conditions, though this requires knowledge of the genetic condition status of the animals under consideration. Knowledge of the genetic condition status can be achieved via genetic testing (costly, particularly for animals that may be culled), GeneProb results where available or by knowledge of affected family lines (less accurate).

management group (mob), this is unlikely to be an issue (for

Accurate measures of genetic merit - With artificial breeding, each mating decision can result in more progeny than is the case with natural mating. Thus it is important that selection decisions are made from the most accurate data possible.

breeding values. Genetic evaluations use comparisons between

more information, please see the Understanding BREEDPLAN Management Groups tip sheet on the BREEDPLAN website or contact SBTS or TBTS staff ). As natural disasters and disease typically have a negative effect upon performance (e.g. lighter weights), it is important to note that this will not have an adverse influence on the resulting animal performance in each group, rather than the absolute values. As long as every animal in each management group has had an equal opportunity to perform, the adverse conditions will not affect their EBVs as the animals will rank similarly to

Performance Recording During and After Adversity

what they would in a normal year.

Understandably, performance recording is likely to be a low priority compared with other tasks in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. During the recovery stage, where some time may be available for performance recording, producers may wish to focus on the recording of a subset of key traits and/or a subset of animals.

Some other points to consider when recording animals after adversity include: n

Agistment - management groups should be recorded to differentiate animals on agistment from those remaining at home, or those in different mobs/locations on agistment.

For example, a breeder could chose to concentrate their calving ease and birth weight recording in the maiden heifer mob where these traits are most relevant, or to concentrate their growth recording on the bulls as these are the future sale animals. While not recommended for the long term, these strategies may help producers to record some information until they can return to their full performance recording schedule. Of course, it is important to be aware of the dangers of selective recording; as long as the subset being recorded represents the whole


Early weaning - with feed in short supply, one option is to wean calves early to give the cows the best chance at rebreeding. For BREEDPLAN purposes, the 200 day weight of a group can be recorded as soon as the youngest calf reaches 80 days of age and does not have to be carried out at weaning.


Sick/injured - if the health of individual animals is affected, then these animals should be recorded as being in separate management groups.


Ultrasound scanning - requires animals to have a minimum average rump fat depth of 4 - 5 mm. This ensures that there will be sufficient variation between animals to allow genetic differences to show up.

Additional information on performance recording during and after adversity is contained in the Performance Recording in Drought tip sheet on the BREEDPLAN website. Summary Many beef producers around Australia have recently been affected by natural disasters, including drought, fire and flood. This article has outlined a number of artificial breeding techniques and genetic considerations that may assist herds as they look to rebuild. For those that require further assistance with their breeding programs following recent events, please contact SBTS or TBTS staff to discuss individual requirements. 4

Recovering from a Bovine Johne’s Disease Outbreak: Rockley Brahmans / ASHLEY KIRK In November 2012, three stud cows at Rockley Brahmans tested positive for Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD). For the Queensland based herd, this was the beginning of a process that would see them cull their entire breeding herd of 900 cows and re-build from scratch. With the risk of BJD transfer from embryos fortunately minimal, Ashley was able to harvest oocytes from 10 high genetic merit seedstock cows with a range of pedigree diversity. These oocytes were put through an IVF program using semen from a range of outside AI sires and homebred bulls. The resulting calves have formed the basis of the new seedstock herd, allowing Ashley to retain valuable female bloodlines that go back over 60 years. The commercial herd has been re-built to pre-BJD numbers with the purchase of quality outside females which were joined to brought-in sires. Ashley is philosophical about the experience. “BJD gave us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-examine our

have been well received since re-entering the market in 2016, four years after BJD.”

breeding objectives and re-direct our future as a seedstock producer. We have made a huge change in our breeding direction with a much higher emphasise placed on fertility,

For those that find themselves in a similar situation, Ashley has this advice. “It is important to make careful decisions and set goals for your business. Draw on the support of your family, friends and community. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek expert advice. Aim to balance family, work and physical and mental health.”

genotype and polled genetics. We are definitely ahead in genetic merit after BJD.” The BJD experience has also led to greater communication with clients. “We worked hard to inform our clients of our road to recovery and assigned a marketing team to guide us along the way. Rockley genetics

Natural Disaster Resources for Livestock Producers


n addition to resources available from state-based Department of Primary Industries, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) have made available a range of information on dealing with natural

disasters for those producers currently affected by drought, fire and/ or flood. This includes mental health resources, livestock health and welfare resources, livestock nutrition advice (including containment feeding), transportation advice and information on recovery assistance programs and grants. For further information, please see the following links: Mental Health: Bushfire Recovery: Flood Recovery: Drought Management: 5

Breeding for Production System Efficiency


large number of traits contribute to the profitability of cattle production systems. This article will discuss how BREEDPLAN EBVs fit in cattle production systems

and how cattle producers can utilise them to select for more efficient cattle. To increase commercial cattle profitability, cattle producers need to consider both the sources of income and the costs of production. If we break the profit equation for commercial beef production down into its simplest form, we get the following: Profit ($) = Number of Calves x Weight (kg) x Quality ($/kg) minus the Cost of Production ($) If we look at each of these components in turn, the relevant BREEDPLAN traits can be observed. It is important to note that no one society reports all of the EBVs that BREEDPLAN can calculate. This is due to variation in breeding objectives and levels of data recording between societies. influence the Cost of Production. Part of the reason for this is

Number of Calves is determined by the number of calves born

that evidence of beef production is easily observed from an

(fertility) and calf survival (calving ease). Each year a calf is not

animal’s size and condition, and the feedback sheets received

conceived or does not survive means a year where the cow is

from processors. Unfortunately, the costs of production are a

carried without performing her primary role. A number of

lot harder to see and quantify, and thus are easier to overlook.

BREEDPLAN EBVs contribute towards calf survival including

Ideally, a seedstock recording program would allocate as many

Calving Ease Direct (%), Calving Ease Daughters (%), Birth

resources to recording and selection emphasis to reducing the

Weight (kg) and Gestation Length (days). Fertility EBVs include Days to Calving (days), Scrotal Size (cm) and Percent Normal

cost of production, as it does towards maximising income.

Sperm (%).

The Cost of Production is determined by multiple factors,

The Weight of the individual progeny has multiple influences on

some of which appear in or are closely related to the income components of the profit equation. Unfortunately, some of

the profit equation. In the context of income, an animal’s size is

these are negatively correlated with their income equivalents.

the largest contributor to its value. Depending on the desired target market, the relevant BREEDPLAN Growth EBVs could

For example, an animal’s size (Growth EBVs) is the largest

be 200 Day Growth (weaners), 400 Day Weight (yearlings)

contributor to its value (income) but also determines how

or 600 Day Weight (later ages). Additionally, the Milk EBV

much an animal needs to eat each day to maintain its size

quantifies the maternal contribution (e.g. milk and maternal

(cost). As a consequence, a popular selection objective to

behaviour) to each animal’s weaning weight. All Growth EBVs

balance this relationship is to select for fast growth to sale

are reported in kilograms (kg).

weight in the progeny from moderate sized mature cows (Mature Cow Weight EBV) that require less feed. This can be

Carcase Quality also contributes to the value of sale animals.

achieved by selecting curve-bender animals and/or by using

The relevant BREEDPLAN Carcase EBVs are Carcase Weight

a larger terminal sire over smaller cows. Cow nutrition is the

(kg), Eye Muscle Area (sq. cm), Rib Fat (mm), Rump Fat (mm),

largest cost of any beef production system and applies to all

Retail Beef Yield (%) and Intramuscular Fat (%). There are two further traits, Marble Score and Marble Fineness (%) that are

cows regardless of whether they produce a live calf or not.

specific to Wagyu BREEDPLAN. In addition, Shear Force (kg),

The carcase traits contribute to both the income and cost sides

is included in the Belmont Red and Brahman BREEDPLAN

of the profit equation in a manner similar to the growth traits.


Both carcase and growth traits determine the value of sale

Livestock producers tend to be good at selecting traits that

progeny (income) and influence the age at which each animal

earn money but have a tendency to overlook traits that

reaches market specification (cost of production). Additionally, 6

the cost of production for a high MSA grade carcase is broadly

levels for the income traits are much higher than for those that

similar to the cost of producing a poorer one, so targeting

determine the cost of production. Fortunately, BREEDPLAN

better carcase quality can be more economically efficient.

utilises a sophisticated piece of computer software called BreedObject that accounts for all of the above when creating

Milk is another trait that occurs on both the income and cost

the selection indexes that breeders can use to select cattle that

sides of the profit equation. Milk is a nutritionally expensive trait and breeders are encouraged to consider the optimum

are efficient producers of beef.

Milk EBV for their production system. Selection for increased


milk production may be warranted when cows are run under


good nutritional conditions (e.g. improved pasture), while






consideration of a number of traits. Fertility is paramount;

poorer environments (e.g. scrubby rangeland) may not support

after all, a cow in the breeding herd should raise a live calf each

cows with higher Milk EBVs. In addition, high milking cows

year and failure to do so makes her a drain on resources. Faster

may not get back in calf as easily as lower milking cows in the

age to turnoff, achieved through selection on a combination of

following year.

growth and carcase traits, reduces the amount of feed required

The Net Feed Intake EBVs (NFI; kg feed per day) are an estimate

for the same amount of product. With feed being the biggest

of the genetic differences between animals in feed intake at a

cost in any beef production system, maintaining production

standard weight and rate of weight gain. As such, NFI EBVs

levels while minimising required feed input will also improve

have an obvious role in determining the cost of production

economic efficiency. While NFI EBVs can assist with this, they

and overall beef production efficiency. Unfortunately, it is

are not widely available and so many breeders will only be

uncommon to see the NFI trait recorded outside of breed

able to utilise mature cow weight to apply selection pressure

society progeny tests due to cost and the availability of the test

on mature size and associated feed intake. Balancing all of the

equipment. This has limited the availability and utility of the

traits that influence efficiency is made easier for beef producers

resulting EBVs.

with the availability of BreedObject selection indexes, as

Given the complexity of combining all of these EBVs into

these balance both the income and expense sides of the profit

a breeding objective in an appropriate manner, it is perhaps

equation. For further information on breeding for efficiency,

is not surprising, although suboptimal, to see that recording

please contact staff at SBTS or TBTS.


The Case for Genotyping Females


hile females contribute 50% to the genetics of their offspring, there is often a tendency amongst beef producers to concentrate on the male side

parentage errors include multi-sire matings, rogue bulls, uncertainty as to whether the AI bull or the back-up bull is the sire, mismothering and/or human error.

of the pedigree. While individual bulls typically have a bigger

2. Management of Genetic Conditions and Qualitative Traits

influence on the herd than individual cows, simply because they produce more progeny, females also play a role in the genetic

improvement of the herd. This article will explore reasons why

understand their genetic condition status and/or qualitative

beef producers may consider genotyping their females and

trait status (e.g. coat colour, horn/poll status). For producers

discuss strategies to genotype the female herd.

who wish to know the genetic condition status of their females (for example, to avoid carrier to carrier matings if

Why Genotype Females?

using a carrier bull) genotyping select females may be of

Just as there are a variety of reasons to genotype male animals,


there are a number of reasons why beef producers may consider

3. Genomics

genotyping their female herd. These include:

1. Parentage Verification

Beef producers may wish to genotype female animals to

For the breeds that have Single-Step BREEDPLAN (Angus, Brahman, Hereford and Wagyu), genomic information

This could be for parentage verification of the female animal

contributes to EBVs of both male and female animals.

and/or parentage verification of her future calves. While

Producers who have these breeds may wish to genotype

not all breed societies mandate compulsory parentage

their heifer drop prior to making replacement decisions,

verification (to both the sire and dam) for all animals, some

to ensure that they have the most accurate EBVs possible

producers may wish to parent verify their animals to have

before selection decisions are made. This can be highly

more certainty regarding their pedigrees. Unfortunately,

beneficial as these young heifers typically have limited

experience has shown that even in the best managed

performance data and thus low EBV accuracy at this age.

herds, parentage errors can still occur. Possible reasons for

Alternatively, producers may wish to genotype a subset


of females, such as high genetic merit females. There may

for a combination of reasons described above (e.g. for parentage

also be a desire to genotype animals that are likely to be in

verification, genetic condition management and genomics

single animal contemporary groups or small contemporary

purposes). It is for this reason that many breed societies offer

groups (e.g. ET calves, show animals, animals from a small

DNA “bundles� to their members, where producers can select


to genotype animal for a variety of purposes (e.g. parentage verification, genetic conditions and genomics) in the one test.

Other breed societies are working towards implementing Single-Step BREEDPLAN; genotypes for animals in these

Bundles are also cheaper than doing multiple individual tests.

breed societies are not currently contributing to the

Which Females Should I Genotype?

calculation of EBVs. Producers in these breed societies can

Deciding which females to genotype will vary from herd to

help to build the reference population (animals with both

herd, and will depend on the motivation for genotyping. For

performance data and genotypes; essential for genomics) by

producers who are keen to do full parentage verification, all

genotyping animals, including females, with performance

dams of the calves they wish to do parent verification on will

data. Once a breed implements Single-Step BREEDPLAN,

need to be genotyped. This could be for all calves in a calving

the benefits outlined in the paragraph above will also apply.

year, or a select subset (e.g. full parent verification on sale

Often there is more than a single reason for genotyping an

bulls only). Producers who are managing genetic conditions

animal. Beef producers may decide to genotype female animals

may wish to genotype cows from certain lines that contain

Figure 1. Genotyping one year old replacement heifers each year will allow beef producers to eventually reach the point where all females in the herd have genotypes. Animals genotyped in the current year are highlighted in red, while those that already have genotypes are highlighted blue. 9

known carriers. GeneProb results, where available, may assist

the 1 year old heifers are genotyped, ensuring that all females

producers to identify cows that have a high likelihood of being

in the herd have genotypes going forward.

a carrier for a particular genetic condition. The animals that

Of course, how long this takes to achieve depends on the age

a producer wishes to genotype for genomics purposes may

of the cows in the breeding herd, and which age group of cows

also vary, from a subset of females through to all heifers in the

are genotyped each year. For example, if cows are not cast for

calving drop.

age until 10 years old, it will take longer to reach the point

Strategies to Genotype the Whole Female Herd

where all cows are genotyped. No matter how many years it takes to reach the point where all cows are genotyped, it is

Some breeders may be interested in genotyping all of

recommended that producers start with the youngest heifers

the females in their herd. However, for many, the cost of

first. As the heifers are likely to remain in the herd for the

genotyping all females in the herd in one hit can be prohibitive.

longest time period of all the females, producers will be able

Let us assume that the cost to genotype an animal on a 50K

to utilise their genotypes (e.g. to parent verify their calves)

panel is $60 (please note prices will vary, as some societies will offer bundles which include additional tests such as genetic

over subsequent years. From a genomics viewpoint, younger

conditions and/or parentage verification). For a herd with 200

animals are also likely to benefit the most from the inclusion of

cows, this would mean an outlay of $12,000 to genotype all

genomics information in the calculation of their EBVs.

cows in the herd. An alternative strategy for beef producers


to consider is genotyping their replacement heifers each year. While it will take longer to reach the point where all females in

There are several reasons that beef producers may wish to

the herd have genotypes, the total cost of genotyping is spread

genotype their female herd, including parentage verification,

across subsequent years.

management of genetic conditions and/or qualitative traits

An example of this strategy is shown in Figure 1. In this herd,

and for genomic purposes. However, for many, the costs of genotyping the whole female herd at the one time can

cows are cast for age at 8 years of age. In year one, the 1 year

be prohibitive. Beef producers who wish to genotype their

old heifers are genotyped, while the remaining females (2 years

breeding females may wish to consider doing so over multiple

old – 7 years old) do not have genotypes. In year two, the 1

years, by genotyping the heifer portion of the herd each year

year old heifers are genotyped, the 2 year old heifers already

until such a time that all females in the herd have genotypes.

have genotypes (having been genotyped in year one), while the remaining females (3 years old – 7 years old) do not have

While slower to reach the point where all females in the herd

genotypes. This cycle repeats each year, until, in year seven, all

have genotypes, this strategy has the advantage of spreading

females in the herd have genotypes. In years eight and beyond,

the cost of genotyping over subsequent years.

Gestation Length EBVs Released for Brahmans


ood news for Brahman BREEDPLAN members with the introduction of a Gestation Length EBV into the Australian

Brahman BREEDPLAN analysis in the November 2019 BREEDPLAN run. Gestation Length EBVs provide an estimate of genetic differences between the period from the date of conception (i.e. when the cow gets in calf ) to when the subsequent calf is born. Gestation Length EBVs are calculated from both the joining date and date of birth records for calves conceived by either AI or Hand Mating. Gestation length information should be submitted to the Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association when submitting your calf registration details. 10

A Clearer Image for the Australian Beef Supply Chain


bjective carcase measurements in the Australian meat industry have been acknowledged as a required step forward in providing supply chains and

after slaughter, using a set of quantitative measurements

BREEDPLAN with more precise data than is currently available.

ossification, intramuscular fat content (marble score), meat

The Australian Wagyu Association has been investigating the

colour, fat colour and eye muscle area. Voluntary additional

use of the MIJ-30 objective carcase camera to provide a higher

values can also be included to define the eating quality under

level of measurement accuracy on intramuscular fat content,

Meat Standards Australia.

distribution (fineness) and eye muscle area. With this data,

In contrast, the MIJ-30 camera allows for the collection

and qualified reference charts to define the grade. These parameters include carcase weight, P8 fat depth, dentition,

breeders will be better able to identify breeding potential

of objective carcase measurements. By using objective

using BREEDPLAN EBVs based on objective carcase data,

measurements from calibrated instruments to grade carcases,

while suppliers to hospitality, retail and export will be able to

subjective measurements are removed. In addition, objective

strengthen their brands with more accurate descriptions of

carcase measurements allow a greater level of repeatability and


precision in the resulting carcase grades.

Traditionally Aus-Meat qualified meat graders assess each

Aus-Meat grading from marble score (MS) 0 to 9 is equivalent

carcase in a chilled environment at a prescribed period

to 0% to 21% intramuscular fat (IMF%) content as determined

MIJ-30 commercial camera 11

Figure 1. The Australian meat grading system (A) operates to marble score 9 (21% IMF) using reference charts for comparison while the Japan Meat Grading Association (B) operates to marble score 12 (around 50% IMF).

by extractable fat (chemical fat; Figure 1). Wagyu can exceed

depending on the required grading system. For the Australian

50% IMF, with other factors such as fineness also important for

industry, using accurate marble score data across the full range

eating quality and value for all breeds.

of IMF% and being able to compare against world market place competitors is invaluable for assessing product quality and

The Japanese carcase grading system, overseen by the Japan

genetic gain in marbling.

Meat Grading Authority (JMGA) is more complex and includes marbling, yield, colour/brightness, texture and fat quality. The

Any EBV is dependent on the quality and accuracy of the

Japanese Beef Marbling Standards (BMS) can also reach BMS

performance data that the trait is measured with. In the case

12, which is equivalent to more than 50% IMF (Figure 1).

of Australian Wagyu, the top 30% of genetics sits above AusMeat marble score 9 and this proportion needs be identified to

Figure 2 shows the relationship between Aus-Meat, USDA and

accurately grade and make management decisions to achieve

JMGA grades and IMF%. Each grading system has its own

the best possible genetic progress.

purpose and range. However, IMF% is the true standard that allows each grading system to be compared.

The mechanisations of the MIJ-30

With objective grading using MIJ-30, the level of intramuscular

The Meat Image Japan (MIJ-30) camera has been evolving

fat can be given as a percentage along with a score allocated

for more than 20 years. The grading starts with a scan of the 12

carcase identification via a barcode scanner, followed by a

over 9,000 carcase images captured from the supply chain

digital image by the MIJ-30 of the eye muscle to calculate the

collecting objective carcase data.

range of traits important to carcase quality.

A new finding from initial work has been an improved

Comparisons between chemical analysis of fat content and the

understanding of the variation in marbling fineness that exists

MIJ-30 indicate that the accuracy is up to 90%. Eye muscle area

within the Australian Wagyu content slaughter population.

calculations are also highly accurate, as the technology uses

Fineness of marbling has a large influence on the eating quality

automatic edge detection and can compensate for variations

of beef. The MIJ-30 camera and cloud-based grading system

in cut angles and carcase rotations. The MIJ-30 uses a digital

incorporates this with the Digital Marbling fineness assessment

CCD optical system with a resolution of 12Mb.

score based on the MIJ developed ‘New Fineness Index’.

Using a cloud-based analysis system that provides real-time

The New Fineness Index calculates the circumference of each

grading, the camera takes a digital image that is uploaded

marbling particle to evaluate the total length of particle size as

via WiFi with results given within 20 seconds. If WiFi is not

a proportion to the total ribeye area enabling carcases to be

available, or upload speeds are slow from the processing site,

ranked based on fineness. In the Japanese BMS grading system,

images can be stored on USB for analysis back in the office.

both Marbling Percentage and the New Fineness Index are

Each camera has a unique identifier, providing the customer

important for objectively measuring BMS accurately with the

with secure data and transfer. Images taken by the MIJ-30 is

MIJ camera. The ability for the Wagyu production system to

tagged with the identifier, giving the processor full ownership

select for animals that present well for marbling percent as well

of the images and results. The unit is fully enclosed and

as marbling fineness presents a true positive move forward

manufactured from stainless steel for hygienic operation and

for product quality. Within the data gathered so far from the

is easily cleaned.

Wagyu supply chain to date, marbling fineness can vary greatly,

The use of the MIJ-30 in industry

having a large impact on eating quality and texture.

The MIJ-30 system has been in the Australian, New Zealand

For more information contact the Australian Wagyu

and South Africa Wagyu supply chain in some form or another

Association on 02 8880 7700 or Aaron van den Heuvel at

for the past thirteen months. During this time there has been

Figure 2: The relationship between Aus-Meat, USDA and JMGA (BMS) grading systems and actual intramuscular fat (IMF%). 13

Herefords Australia Releases New Selection Indexes


our new Herefords Australia BreedObject selection indexes were released with the publication of the October 2019 Hereford BREEDPLAN analysis.

The steers and surplus heifers are destined for slaughter at 20 to 22 months of age. Steers produce 300 kg carcases with 10 mm of P8 fat depth, while heifers produce 270 kg carcases with

Herefords Australia General Manager Andrew Donoghue

12 mm of P8 fat depth. A moderate cost is applied for cow feed

considers the release of these new selection indexes to be a big

costs during the annual feed shortage period.

step in the right direction. “By using these indexes, seedstock and commercial Hereford and Hereford cross producers

Northern Baldy Terminal Index - Estimates the genetic

will be ensuring that they choose the right genetics for their

differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined

production system. This will enable producers to move their

in a commercial crossbred herd using Hereford bulls over

herd and the breed forward to maximise their profitability and

Bos indicus/Tropical females (e.g. Santa Gertrudis) where all

meet the needs of the processor.�

progeny (male and female) are destined for slaughter. Steers

Each of the new selection indexes describes a different

and heifers are slaughtered at 20 to 22 months of age. Steers

production/market scenario and relates to a typical commercial

produce 340 kg carcases with 14 mm of P8 fat depth while

herd using Hereford bulls. Producers are advised to use the

heifers produce 300 kg carcases with 17 mm of P8 fat depth.

selection index that most closely aligns to their production system. All four selection indexes are focussed on maintaining

Further details are available in the Interpreting Australian

and improving eating quality. Significant premiums are applied

Hereford Selection Indexes tip sheet, available on both the

for increasing marble score up to a marble score of 3. Pressure

Herefords Australia website (https://www.herefordsaustralia.

is also applied to early life growth to maintain low ossification and the BREEDPLAN website (http://breedplan.une.

scores and good MSA compliance. In addition, each selection

index targets the following specifications. Southern Self-Replacing Index - Estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined in a commercial self-replacing purebred Hereford herd targeting the domestic market. Daughters are retained for breeding and so maternal traits are of importance. Steers are slaughtered at 20 to 22 months of age to produce 300 kg carcases with 10 mm P8 fat depth. A moderate cost is applied for cow feed costs during the annual feed shortage period. Northern Self-Replacing Index - Estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined in a commercial self-replacing herd targeting the domestic market. This index is suitable for use by both straight bred Hereford herds and in crossbreeding programs where Hereford bulls are being used over a Bos indicus based cow herd. Daughters are retained for breeding and so maternal traits are of importance. Steers are slaughtered at 20 to 22 months of age to produce 340 kg carcases with 12 mm P8 fat depth. A high cost is applied for cow feed costs during the annual feed shortage period. Southern Baldy Maternal Index - Estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined in a commercial crossbred herd using Hereford bulls over Bos taurus females (e.g. Angus). A portion of the heifers are retained for breeding and so maternal traits are of importance. 14

A Seedstock Producer’s Perspective on MateSel


n a breeding operation, there’s big decisions that need to be made on an annual basis, one of which is deciding the sires that will be joined to specific mobs of females. Jeanne

Seifert and Ian Stark, the owners of Seifert Belmont Reds based at Jandowae on the Western Darling Downs, have collectively undertaken this decision-making process for ten years on 1500 - 1700 females/year. In recent years however they’ve explored the use of MateSel, a tool offered by ABRI that helps to objectively optimise mating allocations. TBTS Technical Officer, Tim Emery, recently caught up with Jeanne to gain an insight into their experience with MateSel. Jeanne Seifert and Ian Stark, Seifert Belmont Reds, have been using MateSel since 2018 to do their mating allocations.

Q: How have you typically done your mating allocations?

at which the information was returned was outstanding. We

I’ve typically used the BREEDPLAN filtering system to identify

literally had the cows and calves in the yards and could draft

males in the Top 10 - 20% for the particular traits we are focusing

accordingly. It was an unusual set of circumstances and we

on, which may change from year to year, but commonly Days to

certainly won’t expect same day service every year.

Calving, Scrotal Size, Growth, Eye Muscle Area and Marbling.

Q: Was the MateSel Report self-explanatory or did you reach out to Technical Staff for further explanation?

For some groups I’ve also identified females who are weaker for certain traits and matched them with complimentary bulls.

The concept is self-explanatory but I did contact technical staff

Q: How long would this normally take to do?

for further clarification and advice. I also reached out for minor

It takes me weeks.

assistance whilst completing the template.

Q: When did you first use MateSel?

Q: Can you offer any advice to new users of the tool?


By submitting a bigger population of females, there’s a greater

Q: How many groups of females have you used it for?

potential to make genetic improvement.

Two groups in 2018 and four groups in 2019.

Q: Do you see yourself using MateSel for future joinings?

Q: Have you used all the available breeding strategies (Genetic Diversity, Balanced or High Gain) or focused on one in particular?

Absolutely yes! Q: Any other comments you’d like to make about your experience with using MateSel in your seedstock operation?

In 2018, we used it for yearling mated heifers so we generated a suggested mating list of low birth weight sires and went for

The capability of the tool is beyond what mere mortals can do.

a ‘Balanced’ breeding strategy. In 2019 we once again chose

It is a fast and effective tool for driving genetic improvement

the ‘Balanced’ breeding strategy and used it on 1st calf heifers, along with other young females under five years of age.

within a herd. The producer can still be in the steering seat to

Q: Approximately how long did it take you to fill in the MateSel Template?

initial selection of males and females they submit to MateSel.

whatever degree they wish, and can be very specific about the Alternatively, a producer can submit all available sires and

I go back and revisit my choices a fair bit with respect to groups

every female in their herd and let MateSel do it all.

of females, and sires that we propose for each group, so it takes me a couple of hours over a few days.

Seedstock producers in Australia who are members of a breed

Q: Approximately how long did it take to get your MateSel Report back?

society with a published Selection Index are encouraged to

The technicians aim to turn a run around within 48 hours, and

planning their upcoming joinings. If you are interested in

consider using the MateSel mating optimisation tool when learning more about MateSel, you can visit the BREEDPLAN

our reports were gratefully returned within this timeframe. In 2019, we pre-arranged when the run was to be done so the

website, contact the MateSel technician at matesel@breedplan.

technician knew it was coming in and we found the speed or contact staff at SBTS or TBTS. 15

AAABG Conference Wrap Up


ver a six day period in late October 2019, Armidale played host to the 23rd Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics

(AAABG) Conference. A 220-strong crowd consisted of livestock scientists, industry service providers, educators, students and breeders from nine countries (Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, NZ, PNG, Philippines, South Africa, UK and US). Approximately 100 different organisations were represented, creating a perfect platform for information exchange and networking. As in previous years, the core purpose of the conference is to discuss research findings, increase participants’ knowledge, foster ideas and encourage collaboration. Day one of the event kick-started with a student workshop and later that day a welcome function at the well renowned Booloominbah Historic House located at UNE. The following two days were jam packed with plenary sessions, mainly featuring invited overseas speakers, along with concurrent sessions showcasing 15 minute presentations relating to a specific research area. The broader areas of research covered were: computational and statistical, breeding objectives, gene

Boyd Gudex presenting on ‘Levels of Performance Recording in the Australian Beef Industry’ at the AAABG Breeder Days.

editing and novel genes, beef/sheep/dairy/pigs/poultry, native breeds and challenging environments, breeding program

Dr David Johnston was given the difficult task of being first

design, detection of causal variants, genomic selection,

speaker up after the conference dinner, however he took on the

efficiency and product quality, health/welfare/immunity, and

challenge and presented an engaging and thought provoking

novel phenotypes and other industries.

John Vercoe Memorial Lecture. The remainder of the day, along

Day four once again consisted of a number of presentations in

with the following day, centred on a ‘Breeders Program’, with

the morning; however it also saw the awarding of the prestigious

dedicated beef and sheep presentations. A special mention

Helen Newton Turner medal to Dr Kevin Atkins, the delegates

must go to Mark Mortimer (Centre Plus Merinos) and Darryl

go their separate ways to partake in one of five field trips on

Savage (NAPCO) for providing an in depth look into their

offer, and the always enjoyable conference dinner rounded off

respective companies’ genetics journey over time.

the evening and acknowledged outstanding service to industry.

All members of the SBTS & TBTS teams were fortunate enough to take part in the whole event, with a couple of members being asked to present papers at the Breeder Days. SBTS Technical Officer Boyd Gudex presented a paper titled “Levels of Performance Recording in the Australian Beef Industry” in the John Vercoe Memorial Lecture session at the conference. This paper presented combined SBTS & TBTS Completeness of Performance results and highlighted numerous trends in the levels of performance recording. While slightly more heifers are registered than males, the opposite is true when it came to recording performance (bulls > heifers). Performance recording also decreased as animals got older (200d > 400d > 600d > Mwt), while the level of days to calving recording is much higher in TBTS stakeholder societies than in

Angus steers on display at Tullimba Feedlot during the AAABG Tour. 16

SBTS. Paper available from

demonstrated and discussed their research into potential new


methods of recording birth traits, feed intake on pasture, health and other traits utilising modern technologies (smart

SBTS Technical Officer Catriona Millen presented a paper

tags & collars, virtual fencing etc).

titled “Two Years In: Lessons from the Introduction of

Catriona took part in the 'Surf (Trout) and Turf' tour. In

Hereford Single-Step BREEDPLAN”. The first multi-country

addition to a lovely lunch at Deano's Smoked Trout, the tour

multi-trait Single-Step BREEDPLAN analysis was released for

group got to visit a free range egg operation at 'Working with

the Hereford breed in Australia, New Zealand and Namibia

Nature' and visit 'Bald Blair Angus' where Sam White discussed

in October 2017. Since then, producers have embraced genotyping, with a 3.8 fold increase in the number of animals

his Angus stud operation, including his breeding program.

genotyped in just 18 months. In particular, producers are

Finally, Tim, Paul and Carel ventured to the Feed (lot) & wine:

increasingly genotyping young bulls and heifers. The inclusion

Tullimba and Merilba Estate Tour. At Tullimba they were

of genomic information has 1) led to EBV movement for

provided with an overview of the property and feedlot, shown

individual animals, 2) increased EBV variance (spread) and 3)

the recent improvements to the feed mill, listened to a range of

increased EBV accuracy. Exclusion of hard-to-measure trait

speakers at the feedlot and witnessed 3D camera technology at

performance information from the analysis confirmed the

the yards. Presentations covered the Angus Sire Benchmarking

importance of recording performance information to generate

Program, net feed intake, genomics, the GrowSafe feeders

EBVs, even when utilising genomics. The paper concluded that

and feedlot bedding trials. Late in the day, tour delegates were

the collection of both genotypes and performance information

given an insight into wine making whilst admiring the beautiful

remains vital in allowing beef producers to best utilise Single-

Merilba Estate.

Step BREEPDLAN. Paper available from http://www.aaabg.

All in all the conference was a huge success and the team


look forward to the next event scheduled for 2021. To learn

For the field trip component, the SBTS & TBTS teams spread

more about AAABG, and to download individual papers

out across three of the five options made available. Boyd went

from the conference proceedings, please visit

to the CSIRO Agriculture and Food Chiswick Research Station

Additionally, SBTS & TBTS staff can be contacted for further

along with the UNE Smart Farm. CSIRO and UNE presenters

clarification on topics that were showcased.



eef producers can keep up to date with the latest developments in genetic technologies and the activities of SBTS and TBTS by following SBTS and TBTS on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Articles and information on upcoming events (e.g. webinar series, BullSELECT workshops) are routinely posted on Facebook and Twitter. The YouTube channel contains video presentations from past webinar series and short ‘Understanding BREEDPLAN EBVs’ video clips.

TO FOLLOW > SBTS and TBTS on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube simply go to the SBTS or TBTS website and click on the relevant icon, or go directly to the SBTS & TBTS Facebook account at, Twitter account at or YouTube Channel at


2019 SBTS & TBTS Regional Forums Completed


BTS and TBTS would like to thank the breeders and industry personnel who attended Regional Forums in 2019. A total of 12 two day forums (with option

Anonymous feedback collected from those that attended

of single day attendance) were held right across Australia,

90% rated each day as excellent or very good. Benchmarking

with the feedback received suggesting that they were

questions were also asked at the start and end of each day to

extremely beneficial to those who were able to make it.

observe the knowledge gained throughout the sessions. On

SBTS and TBTS staff enjoyed meeting all attendees and

average, there was a 31% increase in knowledge from day one

hope that the conversations were both educational and

and 28% from day two. Considering there was considerable


variation in the amount of cattle breeding experience

The Regional Forums covered a range of topics, from

among the attendees from new herds to herds that have

demonstrated the value of participating in a Regional Forum. Of the 156 participants, 73% attended both days and over

been breeding and selling bulls for at least 40 years, SBTS

performance recording and contemporary groups through

& TBTS are extremely proud of these results and think they

to genomics. The most popular sessions were ‘Utilising

demonstrate the value of attendance to all beef cattle breeders

BREEDPLAN to improve your herd’ (the final day one

regardless of experience and pre-existing knowledge.

presentation that summarised the day’s discussions), ‘Parentage






SBTS and TBTS have already commenced planning the next

BREEDPLAN’ (day two). Additionally producers were

round provisionally slated to occur in 2021 and encourage

provided with Completeness of Performance and Genetic

feedback from breeders and industry personal on topics,

Progress reports for their own herd. This allowed each herd to

locations, timing and other suggestions. Current feedback

stocktake how much performance data they have recorded in

indicates that the two day format works with day one continuing

recent years, while benchmarking how much genetic progress

as ‘BREEDPLAN Fundamentals’ and day two focusing on more

they have made and identifying how this was achieved.

advanced topics.

Boyd Gudex discusses accuracy of selection at the Hahndorf Regional Forum. 18

MLA Livestock Genetics Forum


eat and Livestovck Australia (MLA) invites you to attend the 2020 Livestock Genetics Forum to hear the latest updates and information on how genetic advancements are transforming the red meat industry and the potential to drive productivity, sustainability and profitability of your herd or flock.

VENUE Adelaide Convention Centre Adelaide SA DATE


Wednesday 25 & Thursday 26 March 2020

Please register by 14 March via Eventbrite:


Accessing Support in Application of Genetic Technologies For support and assistance in the use and understanding of the different genetic technologies that are available, such as BREEDPLAN, BreedObject Selection Indexes, Internet Solutions, TakeStock, GeneProb, Mate Selection Software & DNA based tools or to discuss any of the information included in this edition of the SBTS & TBTS Update, please contact:




Boyd Gudex

Limousin Simmental T (02) 6773 1711 M 0437 468 159

Catriona Millen

Blonde d’Aquitaine Charolais Devon Gelbvieh Hereford Murray Grey

Red Angus Red Poll Salers Shorthorn Speckle Park

Paul Williams

Belmont Red Brahman Brangus Droughtmaster

Santa Gertrudis Senepol Simbrah

Tim Emery

Belmont Red Brahman Brangus Droughtmaster

Santa Gertrudis Senepol Simbrah

Carel Teseling

Wagyu T (02) 6773 3357 M 0409 102 644 T (07) 4927 6066 M 0427 018 982 M 0408 707 155 T (02) 8880 7703 M 0439 368 283

IF YOU WOULD LIKE ANY FURTHER INFORMATION ON SBTS AND TBTS PLEASE CONTACT: Tropical Beef Technology Services Telephone: (07) 4927 6066 Email: Web:

Southern Beef Technology Services Telephone: (02) 6773 3555 Email: Web: 20