Winter 2018 SBTS & TBTS Update

Page 1


Performance Recording in Drought Conditions


any regions of Australia have received below average rainfall throughout autumn and winter 2018. Given the seasonal conditions, we thought it would be

Consider the weights of the 12 animals shown in Table 1. In

timely to discuss some of the issues that come up in regards to

range from 398 kg (Animal 4) to 328 kg (Animal 10); there are

recording performance information in drought conditions. This

a number of animals that have performed above the average of

article will discuss whether performance information recorded

the contemporary group, and a number of animals that have

under drought conditions is valid for genetic evaluation purposes,

performed below the average of the contemporary group.

a non-drought year, under normal seasonal conditions, the average 200 day weight of these animals is 360.6 kg. The animals

Generally speaking, we would expect animals that perform above

and outline some of the trait specific considerations that beef

the average of the contemporary group to have 200 Day Growth

producers should consider if continuing to collect performance information under challenging seasonal conditions.

EBVs that are above their mid parent value, and animals that

Can I Still Record Performance Information in a

200 Day Growth EBVs that are below their mid parent value.

perform below the average of the contemporary group to have


Now consider the weights of the 12 animals shown in Table 2.

Yes. Many producers are worried that lighter weights on

In a poor year, under drought conditions with limited feed, the

their animals will lower their EBVs, but this is not the case.

average 200 day weight of these animals is 255.9 kg. While the

BREEDPLAN analyses animals within contemporary groups;

weights are lower than they would be in a non-drought year, we

that is, animals that have had equal opportunity to perform. It is

still see a spread in weights, with the heaviest animal weighing

not the raw weight of an animal that is important, but rather how

295 kg, and the lightest animal weighing 223 kg. As was the

that animal has performed relative to the rest of its peers.

case in the non-drought year, some animals perform above the

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

Table 1. 200 day weights of 12 animals under normal seasonal conditions (non-drought).


Weight (kg)

Animal 1


Animal 2


Animal 3


Animal 4


Animal 5


Animal 6


Animal 7


Animal 8


Animal 9


The Repronomics Project Enabling Genetic Improvement in Reproduction in Northern Australia 15

Animal 10


Animal 11


Animal 12


Lessons from the 2018 World Congress for Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 17



IN THIS ISSUE Performance Recording in Drought Conditions


Using the EBV Percentile Graph in Sale Catalogues


The BREEDPLAN Analysis and Outliers


The Maternal Female: What Makes A Good Cow?


Single-Step BREEDPLAN What Have We Learnt So Far? 13

Talking Genetics at BEEF 2018


BREEDPLAN Discussion Group Now on Facebook 20 Get Social With SBTS & TBTS


TBTS Visits Western Australia


Australian Gelbvieh Association Re-join SBTS Project 21 SBTS Facilitates Regional Forums and BullSELECT Workshops in Western Australia 22 Help Your Clients to Purchase the Right Bulls with a BullSELECT Workshop 23 TBTS 2018 Regional Forums


Locations of BREEDPLAN Members of SBTS & TBTS Stakeholder Breed Societies


Speckle Park & Senepol Upgrade to ILR2 Software


Optimise Joining Using MateSel 27 Accessing Support in Application of Genetic Technologies 28

average of their contemporary group, while other animals perform below the average of their contemporary group. Their EBVs will reflect their performance relative to the other animals in their contemporary group. Can Drought Conditions Impact Performance Recording? While the poor performance of animals due to drought conditions can be handled by the BREEDPLAN analysis, there are numerous factors that have the potential to Table 2. 200 day weights of 12 animals under drought conditions.


Weight (kg)

Animal 1


Animal 2


Animal 3


Animal 4


Animal 5


Animal 6


Animal 7


Animal 8


Animal 9


Animal 10


Animal 11


Animal 12





compromise the effectiveness of performance recording under

criteria (e.g. sex, prior management groups, prior weigh

drought conditions. Usually, these factors revolve around the

dates). In addition, try to weigh all calves before splitting

forced implementation of management practices that can

the group (e.g. weigh all calves at home before sending out

cause considerable disruption to routine stud operations and/

onto different agistment properties).

or the poor condition of stock.


group information. A different management group code

For example: n

should be entered for any calf or group of calves that have

Animals may be placed on agistment, often on a number of

been treated differently or exposed to different non-genetic

properties. This can make performance recording difficult

influences on performance. For example, a sick animal

(e.g. yards and/or scales not available on all properties)

should be placed into a different group to animals that are

and can result in animals that would normally be managed

not sick, and mobs running on different properties should

together being split into multiple management groups (e.g.

be placed into different management groups.

one or more management group per property). n

Calves may be weaned early. This could mean that they younger than 80 days of age at weaning).

What Other Considerations Should Be Made When Recording Performance Information Under Drought Conditions?

Animals may display an increased and varied incidence of

In addition to the above strategies, there are several other

are too young to be performance recorded at weaning (e.g. n

disease and/or sickness. Where animals are sick and this

considerations when recording performance information in

has had an effect on performance, the sick animal should

drought conditions.

not be directly compared to other animals which were not


sick. Thus, increased incidence of sick animals will impact

and 300 days of age when the weight is recorded. Therefore,

A large number of animals may be dispersed. Once again,

it is important to ensure that the youngest calf is 80 days or

this may impact on contemporary group formation for

older when taking a 200 day weight. If calves are younger

the herd (e.g. increased prevalence of small contemporary

than 80 days of age at weaning, postpone taking weights on


the whole cohort until the youngest calf is 80 days of age or older.

What Management Practices can be Taken to Reduce the Disruption of Drought?


weaning (provided the youngest calf is 80 days of age or

the disruption that drought has on the effectiveness of

older) and then take a second weight later. If taking two

performance recording.

weights, ensure at least a month between the two weights.

Producers should consider which traits are important


to their breeding program and/or the breeding program

recording of the associated mature cow weights should also

they record. With time often a constraint under drought

be delayed. Mature cow weights should be taken within

conditions, limiting performance recording to a core of

two weeks of the 200 day weights of the calves.

important traits can be an adequate interim measure. Alternatively, maintaining the traits that you record but


limiting your performance recording to a subset of animals

Animals should only have ultrasound scanning information recorded if they are in adequate condition. To obtain

(e.g. your bull calves) may be a suitable short term option.

effective results, animals should have a minimum average

If utilising either of these options, it is important to resume

rib fat depth of 3 mm and a minimum average rump fat

whole herd and full trait recording as soon as possible.

depth of 4-5 mm. This ensures that there will be sufficient variation between animals to allow genetic differences to

possible, the number of animals within each

show up.

contemporary group should be maximised and/or maintained. BREEDPLAN will use the performance


information of an animal more effectively if there are a

The fertility performance of cows running under drought conditions can provide very valuable information for the

large number of other animals to compare it with. n

In situations where the recording of the 200 day weights of your calves is delayed, it is important to remember that the

of their clients, and potentially rationalise the traits that

n Where

BREEDPLAN can analyse two 200 day weights per animal. If early weaning, it may be beneficial to weigh all calves at

There are a number of strategies that can be taken to minimise


If early weaning, remember that BREEDPLAN can only analyse the 200 day weights of calves that are between 80

on contemporary group formation for the herd. n

Care should be given to submit accurate management

BREEDPLAN analysis. In drought situations, there will

If a contemporary group has to be split for management

generally be more pressure placed on female fertility than

reasons (e.g. splitting calves across two agistment

normal and this can have benefits for genetic evaluation.

properties) create the new groups based on “automatic�

However, the usefulness of the fertility information can 3

decrease if there are significant non-genetic factors that cannot be accounted for (e.g. disease). If you have any concerns about the quality of your fertility information in a drought, please contact staff at BREEDPLAN, SBTS or TBTS to discuss your concerns prior to submitting this information. n

Performance information should be recorded for animals, even if they have lost weight. Animals are only directly compared to other animals that have been treated alike. It is how the animal performs relative to the other animals in the contemporary group that is important, not the raw measurement itself.


Where an animal has been sick and/or ill, and this has affected its performance, then it should be placed into a separate management group to calves that were not sick and/or ill. In extreme situations, if the drought has resulted in a high and varied incidence of disease and/or sickness, careful consideration needs to be given as to whether to record the performance for that particular group of animals. If there have been significant differences in nongenetic influences that cannot be accounted for, recording performance may bias the EBVs of these calves. Please contact staff at BREEDPLAN, SBTS or TBTS if you are concerned that this may be an issue for your herd.

Conclusion Beef producers are able to continue to record performance information in drought conditions. As it is the relative performance of an animal that is important (e.g. how did the animal perform relative to the rest of the animals in the contemporary group) and not the raw performance value, a decrease in production due to drought conditions will not lower an animal’s EBVs. Despite this, drought conditions can bring with them some unique challenges. Given that producers are likely to have increased workloads in a drought, potential short term options might be to decrease the number of traits being recorded (e.g. subset of traits directly relating to a breeding objective) or to decrease the number of animals being performance recorded (e.g. just bulls). Animals should still be managed in

If calves are younger than this at weaning, then weighing of

as large a group as possible, although this can be challenging

the calves and of their dams (for mature cow weight) should

when animals are being agisted across multiple properties.

be delayed until the youngest calf is 80 days of age or older.

Care should also be taken to ensure that management groups

Equally, maintaining stock in an acceptable condition for

are correct – particularly as the incidence of sick or diseased

ultrasound scanning may be more challenging under drought

animals may be higher under drought conditions.

conditions. Animals should have a minimum average rump fat depth of 4-5 mm and a minimum average rib fat depth of 3 mm

When to record certain traits may also need extra consideration

if scanning.

under drought conditions. For example, if doing an early weaning, it is important to remember that calves should be a

For further information on recording performance information

minimum of 80 days of age when a 200 day weight is recorded.

in drought, please contact staff at SBTS or TBTS. 4

Using the EBV Percentile Graph in Sale Catalogues


n the last SBTS & TBTS Update, the EBV Percentile Graph was introduced. This graph provides cattle producers with a visual representation of how the EBVs of an individual

of different animals. This makes it a great tool for beef producers looking to use BREEDPLAN EBVs and Selection Indexes as a part of their selection decisions. In this article, we will explore

animal rank in comparison to the rest of the breed.

how the EBV Percentile Graph can be used in sale catalogues,

It can be used to quickly get a feel for the strengths and

incorporated the EBV Percentile Graph into their own sale

and speak to several seedstock producers who have recently

weaknesses of individual animals, and to compare the attributes

catalogues about their experiences with doing so.

The Storth Oaks Angus Experience At Storth Oaks Angus in Otorohanga, New Zealand, Tim and Kelly Brittain have been using the EBV Percentile Graphs in their sale catalogues since 2017. For each lot, a three generation pedigree, a colour EBV Percentile Graph, BREEDPLAN EBVs, Selection Indexes and structural assessment scores for a range of structural traits are displayed (Figure 1). There are two lots to a page, and breed average EBVs are displayed at the bottom of each page.

Tim and Kelly Brittain, Storth Oaks Angus

decision to incorporate the graphs into our sale catalogue and have the extra pages. In my opinion it also makes the catalogue more presentable!”

So far, the response from clients has been positive. “We have not had any negative feedback, and a number of customers have commented that they like having the graphs in the sale catalogue”. Tim and Kelly plan to continue to incorporate the EBV Percentile Graphs in their sale catalogues in future years. “I believe the majority of farmers prefer to see things presented graphically,” says Tim. “However, we do have some customers, perhaps a third, that prefer to see the EBVs. I’m in that camp myself.” For this reason, Tim and Kelly don’t envisage that they will ever have a sale catalogue that does not display EBVs. Instead they will cater to everyone by having both the EBVs and the EBV Percentile Graphs in their sale catalogues. Would Tim encourage others to include the EBV Percentile Graphs in their own sale catalogues? “Certainly. I think it helps many farmers to understand what the numbers mean if they have the graphical mind that I mentioned.” He knows of at least two other studs in New Zealand that have recently incorporated the EBV Percentile Graphs into their own sale catalogues. While some may be concerned at the extra cost of incorporating an EBV Percentile Graph for each lot into their sale catalogues, Tim says that for Storth Oaks, the costs have been minimal. “Previously we had three lots to a page, but really the cost between having two or three lots to a page was so small that it made no difference to our

Figure 1. An example page from the 2017 Storth Oaks Angus catalogue. Each lot (two per page) has a three generation pedigree, a colour EBV Percentile Graph, BREEDPLAN EBVs, Selection Indexes and structural assessment scores for a range of structural traits provided, while breed average EBVs are displayed at the bottom of each page.


The Whangara Angus Experience At Whangara Angus in Gisborne, New Zealand, EBV Percentile Graphs have been included in sale catalogues since 2016. There are three lots per page, with breed average EBVs displayed at the bottom of each page (Figure 2). Each lot has a two generation pedigree, a colour EBV Percentile Graph, BREEDPLAN EBVs and Selection Indexes, while structural scores are provided for a range of structural traits.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, Whangara Angus.

for Birth Weight, but we need to know the Birth Weight EBV number to determine what females a bull would be suitable for. For us they go hand in hand.”

Kristin Kirkpatrick, along with husband Robbie, manages the day-to-day operation of the farm for owner Patrick Lane. We asked Kristin what it was that led to the introduction of the EBV Percentile Graph in the Whangara Angus sale catalogue. Kristin explains, “Our decision to include the EBV Percentile Graphs in our catalogues came after hosting a Bull Buying workshop with Beef and Lamb New Zealand. The feedback on the EBV Percentile Graphs from commercial farmers at this workshop was overwhelming; many felt that the EBV Percentile Graphs were a great way to understand the EBVs. Adding the EBV Percentile Graph to our sale catalogue as a visual component was something simple we could do to help our clients and other potential bull buyers.”

What recommendations does Kristin have for other producers who are considering including the EBV Percentile Graph in their own sale catalogues? “Do it. Including the EBV Percentile Graphs in your sale catalogue will give added value to your potential buyers. It helps your clients, who are your number one priority, by giving them a new way to gain understanding on the information at their disposal.”

A potential increase in sale catalogue production cost was not a factor in this decision. “We want clients to have access to all the facts in order to make the best bull buying decisions, so that they can make more money. Including the EBV Percentile Graphs in our sale catalogues is something we feel as seedstock producer we need to do to be 100% transparent to farmers about what they are purchasing.” Like Tim, Kristin has found that there are some clients who prefer to see the numbers. “While we do have clients that prefer to see the EBVs, the EBV Percentile Graphs have been a great addition for those who had difficulties using the EBVs in their number form. We have found that a lot of people like the visual representation.” This is certainly the case at Whangara, where the EBV Percentile Graph is used to get an indication of whether individual animals being considered for purchase would be suitable for the stud. Kristin feels that there will always be a demand for both the EBVs and the EBV Percentile Graphs. “They are really best utilised together. For example, the EBV Percentile Graph might indicate that the animal is heavier than breed average

Figure 2. An example page from the 2018 Whangara Angus sale catalogue. Each lot (three per page) has a two generation pedigree, a colour EBV Percentile Graph, BREEDPLAN EBVs, Selection Indexes and structural assessment scores for a range of structural traits. Breed average EBVs are displayed at the bottom of each page.

For further information on the EBV Percentile Graph, please read


the ‘Introducing the EBV Percentile Graph: Where Does This

SBTS & TBTS wish to thank Tim Brittain from Storth Oaks

Animal Rank?’ technical note which can be found under Technical

Angus and Kristin Kirkpatrick from Whangara Angus for

Documents on both the SBTS ( and TBTS

their contributions to this article. As both the Storth Oaks and

( websites. Should you have any further

Whangara experiences have shown, the EBV Percentile Graphs are

questions about where to find the EBV Percentile Graph or how

a valuable tool which can assist clients with their understanding of

to use this information in your sale catalogue, please contact staff

BREEDPLAN information and thus their bull purchasing decisions.

at SBTS or TBTS. 6

The BREEDPLAN Analysis and Outliers by the breeder when transcribing the paddock record on to

What is an Outlier?

their computer.

Every time a BREEDPLAN analysis is run, the variation


between the performance information of animals within

Incorrect animal details recorded. An example recently encountered was where a bull calf had been incorrectly

each contemporary group is examined. While a certain

recorded as a heifer and thus it’s weight was incorrectly

degree of variation in performance is expected within

compared against other heifer calves.

each contemporary group, when the difference between a n

performance record for an animal and the average of all animals

Animals placed in an incorrect contemporary group. For example, a bull was recently identified as an outlier because

in the contemporary group is much greater than we would

it was 150kg heavier than the average of the contemporary

normally expect for the trait measured, the record for this

group. It turned out that the bull had been on feed for a show

animal is identified as an “outlier”. For statistical enthusiasts, a

and thus should have been put in a different management

performance record will be identified as an outlier if it is more

group (not previously indicated).

than three phenotypic standard deviations from the average of the group (after adjusting for age at measurement and age of



Some animals will be genuinely significantly genetically superior or inferior to their peers.

What happens to Outlier records? When outlier data is identified, it is flagged and excluded from the BREEDPLAN analysis. A report is then generated which lists all contemporary groups in which outliers have been identified. A hardcopy outlier report is posted to the breeder and an electronic version is made available in the Internet Solutions download area (titled:


nnnn.pdf where ABC is an example herd code and nnnn is a number). A set of instructions on how to deal with outliers typically accompany the hardcopy outlier report and can also be found in the Internet Solutions download area (titled: BREEDPLAN-outlier-explanation.pdf ). A tip sheet on outliers can also be found on the BREEDPLAN website. Once an outlier has been corrected or verified, the data will be included in future BREEDPLAN analyses. However, if an outlier is NOT corrected or verified, it will continue to be OMMITTED from

For some breed societies, a pre analysis check is also carried out when data is submitted. This check identifies potential outliers

the analysis.

at data entry. As a result, if outliers identified by this check are

It is also important to note that breeders can retrospectively go

verified or corrected before the BREEDPLAN analysis occurs,

back to any recent outliers that can be found in their Internet

this data can be included straight away rather than identified in

Solutions download area and correct and/or verify these

one analysis and then having to wait before being potentially

records at any time.

included in the next analysis.

The Outlier Report

Why does BREEDPLAN check for Outliers?

In the report, animals with outliers (ABCK053 in example

The purpose of identifying outliers is to check for any potential

on next page) are marked in bold with the symbol # in both

recording errors which may have occurred during the data

the left hand and right hand margins and adjacent to the Raw

collection. Typically, there are four main sources of outliers: n Incorrect

Observation. Also reported are the other animals with which

measurement recorded. As an example, we

the outlier animal has been directly compared within the

recently had a case where the birth weight was transposed

BREEDPLAN analysis (the contemporary group). Different 7

contemporary groups are separated in the outlier report by blank lines (not shown in the example below as only one outlier, and hence one contemporary group, is present). The outlier report gives both the raw observation (the outlier is 658kg), which should match the data recorded on farm, and


Is the sex of the animal correct?


Is the date of birth of the animal correct?


Are the sire and dam of the animal correct?


Is the birth number of the animal correct? (ie. twin vs

the adjusted observation (580 kg). The adjusted observation


is adjusted for age (to 600 days for final weight) and for dam


age. In this example, the breeder checked the raw observation

Is the birth status of the animal correct? (ie. ET vs natural).

3. The animal is being analysed in the correct contemporary

against what was written down on farm and found there had


been an error in transcription with the bull actually weighing 858kg not 658kg.


Has the animal had the same opportunity to perform as the other animals in the contemporary group?

What Do Breeders Need to Do?

> Was it sick or injured? (i.e. non-genetic factors leading to

The outlier report gives you the opportunity to correct or

poor performance)

verify the performance for the animals that have been flagged as outliers and to confirm the group of animals against which

> Did it or its dam receive preferential treatment? (e.g. been

this animal is being compared. The recent SBTS & TBTS

prepared for show/sale or other non-genetic factors leading

Regional Forums, when breeders were asked whether they

to better performance)

checked their outlier reports and verified or corrected the


records with BREEDPLAN, only half stated that they always

Has the management group information been correctly recorded?

check and respond to their outlier reports. For those who don’t respond to their outlier reports, their outlier data continues

Once these checks have been made, inform BREEDPLAN of

to be excluded. This means that animals which are potentially

any corrections required or verify that the information has

genetically superior to their peers are not benefitting from

been checked and you believe it to be correct. In response,

the outlier performance data records in these herds. Having learned of the benefits of responding to their outlier reports,


100% said they would do so in the future.

1. Correct the record

group of records carefully and report back to BREEDPLAN

record will be verified on the BREEDPLAN system and included in future analyses.

1. The performance information has been correctly recorded. This includes: n

Is the measurement date correct?


Is the measurement allocated to the correct animal?

updated performance

2. If the owner confirms that the record is correct, the outlier

staff at ABRI. It is recommended that you check:

Is the measurement correct?


included in future BREEDPLAN analyses, or

To correct or verify outliers, each breeder needs to check each



However, if the breeder does not contact BREEDPLAN to correct or verify these outlier records, the outlier records will be excluded from not only the BREEDPLAN analysis in which they were identified, but will remain excluded from all future BREEDPLAN analyses.

2. The animal details have been correctly recorded. 8

The Maternal Female: What Makes A Good Cow? compliance levels at each step, the problems will simply repeat


themselves in subsequent calving drops.

Females play an important role in the herd. Not only does

A classic example of this is seen in the change in docility in

she contribute 50% of her genetics to her calf, but she is also

Australian Limousin. While breeders were culling animals

required to get pregnant, give birth, wean her calf and get

with poor temperaments from each calving drop, it wasn’t until

back in calf, all while maintaining her own condition at an

the Docility EBV was introduced that breeders were able to

acceptable level. This article will examine the traits that make

make informed decisions about which sires and dams to select

a good maternal female, and examine how genetics can help

(previously poor temperament was passed on because the

to improve compliance levels within the herd for each of these important life stages.

environmental effects confounded the underlying genetics of

The Maternal Female

broken in was still producing calves with poor temperament).

the trait – e.g. a “quiet” bull who was quiet because he had been As genetic progress was made within the breed for docility,

The job of a female (whether a maiden heifer or an older cow)

the incidence of calves which needed to be culled for poor

in the breeding herd is to:

temperament decreased.

1. Get in calf (in the first or second cycle) and carry the calf to

In a similar manner, genetics can be used to improve the


percentage of females in the herd which are getting in calf,

2. Give birth to a live calf (without assistance).

giving birth to a live calf unassisted, weaning the calf and

3. Wean the calf.

getting back in calf. Let us explore which of the BREEDPLAN

4. Get back in calf, thus repeating the cycle in the next year.

traits are important for a maternal female throughout her life, particularly during pregnancy, calving, while raising the calf to

In addition, she should do all of this without consuming excessive amounts of feed (in turn improving the stocking rate

weaning and for her own maintenance.

for the property, and thus giving producers the option to run

1. Pregnancy

more animals).

The first test for any female is to get in calf and carry the calf to

While beef producers will often cull cows from the herd that do

term. Ideally, a female should be getting pregnant in the first or

not perform at each step, simply removing the individual cow

second cycle. This allows the producer to have a short joining

does not remove the underlying poor genetics from within the

period (in a fertile herd, this shouldn’t compromise pregnancy

herd (as the parents and/or progeny are not culled). Without

rates) and thus calve down over a shorter time (reducing the

making genetic improvement within the herd to improve

number of weeks the producer needs to check pregnant heifers


and cows for calving difficulties). Calves born from matings in the first or second cycle also have a significant age, and thus weight, advantage over their late-born herd mates. Failure of a heifer to get pregnant is often due to her not being sexually mature at the time she was out with the bull. A heifer may not be sexually mature because she is a late maturing type (e.g. the tall lanky animal), or because she was born late in the season and is younger than the other heifers (e.g. the small young animal). In both situations, the fertility traits (Days to Calving and Scrotal Size EBVs) are important. The Days to Calving EBV describes the genetic differences between animals in the time from the start of the joining period (i.e. when the female is introduced to the bull) until subsequent calving, and is expressed in days. Most variation in this trait occurs in how long it takes the female to get pregnant

Thus, the ideal maternal female should have more negative

(e.g. did she get pregnant in the first cycle, second cycle or not

Days to Calving EBVs (indicating a shorter Days to Calving)

at all), with only a small amount of variation in this trait being

and more positive Scrotal Size EBVs.

due to gestation length (Figure 1). Lower, more negative Days to Calving EBVs are more desirable, as they indicate shorter

2. Calving

Days to Calving (e.g. females that conceive earlier in the joining

The next important test for a female in the breeding herd is to


give birth to a live calf, without assistance. Calving difficulty has a negative impact on the profitability of the herd due to

Similarly, Scrotal Size EBVs are another important indicator

increased calf, heifer and sometimes even cow mortality,

of fertility in the female herd. While this may seem counter-

slower re-breeding performance and considerable additional

intuitive (after all, a heifer does not have a scrotum), research has shown that bulls with higher Scrotal Size EBVs tend to

labour and veterinary expenses.

be more early maturing than those with lower Scrotal Size

While non-genetic factors can contribute to calving difficulty

EBVs. In turn, bulls with higher Scrotal Size EBVs tend to have

(it’s still important to keep heifers and cows in optimal

daughters that mature earlier than the daughters of bulls with

condition in the lead up to calving), there are a number of

lower Scrotal Size EBVs.

genetic factors that also influence calving difficulty. These

Figure 1. Most variation in the Days to Calving EBV is due to the time taken for the female to get pregnant once she is out with the bull.


include birth weight, gestation length, shape of the calf, pelvic area and willingness of the cow to push. These factors are covered by several BREEDPLAN EBVs; namely Calving Ease Direct, Calving Ease Daughters, Gestation Length and Birth Weight.

However, it is important to note that the optimum Milk EBV is dependent upon the production system and the environment in which the cows are run. Selection for increased milk production may be warranted when cows are run under good nutritional conditions (e.g. improved pasture), while other poorer environments (e.g. scrubby rangeland) may not support cows with higher Milk EBVs. In addition, high milking cows may not get back in calf as easily as lower milking cows in the following year. Thus, while the ideal maternal female should provide adequate nutrition to raise the calf to weaning, the optimum Milk EBV for a maternal female will depend on the environment in which she is run.

The Calving Ease Direct EBV describes the genetic differences in the ability of a sire’s calves to be born unassisted from two year old heifers, while the Calving Ease Daughters EBV describes the genetic differences in the ability of a sire’s two year old daughters to calve without assistance. Both EBVs are reported as differences in the percentage of unassisted calvings, with higher, more positive Calving Ease EBVs (indicating less calving difficulty) being more desirable. In a self-replacing herd system, where daughters are retained for breeding, both Calving Ease EBVs are of importance. It is important to note that both traits relate to calving difficulty as expressed in two year old heifers; a bull that has had no calving issues when mated to mature cows may still cause trouble for heifers.

4. Maintenance In addition to getting pregnant, giving birth to a live calf, weaning the calf and getting back in calf, a maternal cow should perform all of these tasks without consuming excessive amounts of feed. Given that feed costs are among some of the most expensive costs on a farm, the weight of a mature cow will have a major influence on net profitability. This is because, in general, lighter cows will tend to eat less, thus having lower feed requirements and being less expensive to maintain. Conversely, given live weight is the major determinant in the value of cull cows, heavier cows may provide higher returns when selling cull cows. It is important to achieve an appropriate balance between feed requirements over the lifetime of the cow and her value as a cull animal.

The Gestation Length EBV describes the genetic differences between animals in gestation length, and is expressed in days. Lower, more negative Gestation Length EBVs indicate a shorter gestation length and thus are more desirable. In general, a shorter gestation length results in a smaller calf, which is usually born with less difficulty than a larger calf and also gives the cow a longer period of time to rebreed without falling later and later in the breeding season each year.

The Mature Cow Weight EBV describes the genetic differences between cows in live weight at 5 years of age, and is expressed in kilograms. A higher, more positive Mature Cow Weight EBV indicates an animal that would produce progeny with a higher mature weight than an animal with a lower Mature Cow Weight EBV. While it is important for producers to optimise the balance between feed requirement and cull value, in general the ideal maternal female should have a low to moderate Mature Cow Weight EBV, as this will reduce her feed requirements over her lifetime.

The Birth Weight EBV describes the genetic differences between animals in calf birth weight, and is expressed in kilograms. Small, or moderate, Birth Weight EBVs are generally more favourable, as they indicate lighter birth weights. In general, a lighter calf at birth is likely to result in less calving difficulty than a heavier calf, although of course there can be exceptions. This is because birth weight, as mentioned above, is not the only factor that influences calving difficulty. The ideal maternal female should have more positive Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Daughters EBVs (indicating less calving difficulty), more negative Gestation Length EBVs (indicating shorter gestation length) and a low to moderate Birth Weight EBV (indicating lower birth weight). 3. Raising the Calf to Weaning The next test for the female is to raise her calf to weaning. A good maternal cow should provide adequate nutrition to raise the calf to weaning, and wean her calf with an adequate weaning weight. The Milk EBV provides an estimate of the maternal contribution of a dam to the 200 day weight of her calf. The Milk EBV is expressed in kilograms and indicates the expected difference in the weight of the calf at 200 days due to the maternal contribution of the cow. 11

Another trait that gives a measure of cow maintenance is

the female as this will allow them to avoid carrier to carrier

net feed intake. Net Feed Intake (NFI) EBVs are measures

matings; although this becomes less important when the bulls

of genetic differences between animals in feed intake

being used in the herd have been tested free for the relevant

at a standard weight and rate of weight gain. The NFI-

genetic conditions. In the same way, producers breeding for

Post Weaning (NFI-P) EBV is a measure of feed efficiency

polled animals may wish to know the horn/poll status of the

when animals are in a growing phase, while the NFI-Feedlot

females to avoid producing horned calves (unless using a

Finishing (NFI-F) EBV is a measure of feed efficiency when

homozygous polled bull). This is less of a consideration for

animals are in a feedlot finishing phase. For both NFI EBVs, a

those wishing to breed only horned calves – given horns are

more negative EBV indicates a more feed efficient animal (e.g.

recessive, simply select bulls and females with visible horns.

animal consumes less feed than expected given its weight and growth profile). While an EBV for net feed intake in cows is not


available, research has shown that there is a positive relationship

A maternal female in the Australian beef herd should get in calf,

between NFI EBVs and feed intake and feed efficiency of cows.

give birth unassisted to a live calf, raise that calf to weaning and

Simply put, selecting for more feed efficient animals using NFI

then get back in calf, all the while maintaining herself without

EBVs should also lead to more feed efficient cows.

needing to consume excessive amounts of feed. BREEDPLAN produces a number of EBVs which are of importance when

5. Other Traits

considering a maternal female; namely Days to Calving,

In addition to the BREEDPLAN traits discussed above, it

Scrotal Size, Gestation Length, Calving Ease Direct, Calving

is important to remember that there are other traits that

Ease Daughters, Birth Weight, Milk and Mature Cow Weight.

are important for a good maternal cow in the herd. A good

Ideally, a maternal female will have shorter Days to Calving

maternal cow must still have good structural soundness;

and Gestation Length EBVs than average (more negative EBVs

after all, she spends much of her life moving around the

are more desirable), while having larger Scrotal Size, Calving

paddock feeding and thus needs good foot and leg structure

Ease Direct and Calving Ease Daughters EBVs (more positive

to allow her to move about with ease. In addition, a cow with

EBVs are more desirable). She should also have a moderate

good structural soundness may last longer in the herd, thus

Birth Weight (lower or moderate EBVs being more desirable),

potentially improving her longevity in the breeding herd. In

and a moderate Mature Cow Weight (lower or moderate EBVs

a similar manner, a maternal cow should be in good general

being more desirable). The optimal Milk EBV will depend on


the environment, where producers in good country may prefer

While not strictly related to her maternal ability, the horn/poll

more positive Milk EBVs, while producers on more scrubby

status, genetic condition status and pedigree of the cow should

marginal country may prefer more moderate Milk EBVs.

also be a consideration. Keeping an eye on the pedigree of the cow (and the bull she is being mated to) allows producers to

For further information on using genetics to breed maternal

manage inbreeding in the herd at an acceptable level. Similarly,

females, or to further discuss any of the topics raised in this

producers may be interested in the genetic condition status of

article, please contact SBTS or TBTS.


Single-Step BREEDPLAN What Have We Learnt So Far? What have we observed so far?

By Professor Rob Banks Director, AGBU, UNE


Firstly, there are very small or negligible changes in the average

t’s now just on 12 months since singlestep methodology was introduced into BREEDPLAN evaluations. It

EBVs for basically all traits in all the breeds running Single-Step BREEDPLAN analyses.

started with Brahman back in May 2017,

This is what we would expect - because having the genotype

and since then the Hereford, Angus and Wagyu BREEDPLAN

information changes how much we know about the individuals, but

evaluations have switched over to implementing Single-Step

does not change the performance data on which the EBVs are based.

BREEDPLAN routinely. What have we seen so far, and what

This does not mean that there are no changes in animals’ EBVs

lessons are being learnt?

- some animals’ EBVs change (up or down) quite markedly.

Single-Step BREEDPLAN - the key points

But this reflects what the DNA is telling us about who those animals are genetically similar to, and this can change either

Single-Step BREEDPLAN refers to an expansion of the

due to detecting errors in pedigrees, and/or to detecting

BREEDPLAN analysis to include genotypes of animals. The genotypes - the DNA “read” - used in the Single-Step

genetic similarity to animals in the reference population.

BREEDPLAN analysis are from larger panels (e.g. a 50K panel)

Secondly, the accuracy of EBVs changes - on average modest increases

than those typically used only for DNA parentage verification

in accuracy are what we see. The increases are larger for animals with

or genetic condition tests.

genotypes than without, but all animals can get some increase.

The analysis method includes the genotype information, and

The amount of increase is not a constant across all traits - it

uses it to estimate the relationship between animals with

is larger for traits for which the genomic reference population

genotypes somewhat more precisely than can be achieved with

(the animals with genotypes and performance records) is

traditional pedigree alone. This means that the information

larger, and for traits that are more highly heritable. This applies

about animals obtained from their performance records is

to each of the breeds.

“shared” a little more precisely with other animals that have

The increases in accuracy also apply to animals that have

some relationship that is detectable at the level of the DNA i.e.

already got performance records as well as to those that don’t.

the SNP that we can see that they have in common.

In general terms, the increases in accuracy will be relatively

This feature means that EBVs on genotyped animals can be more

larger for animals without prior information - animals who’s

accurate than standard BREEDPLAN EBVs. This also means

EBVs before genomics had lower accuracy. To illustrate these

that animals can get EBVs for traits for which they themselves

increases in accuracy, the following table summarises average

have not been recorded. Whilst this has always been possible

changes in accuracy for different traits in 3 breeds, for animals

under standard BREEDPLAN (e.g. an animal has all Growth

with and without genotypes:

EBVs reporting but only has a 200 day weight recorded), by

Differences between breeds in the amount of average increase

reading the DNA, we can detect relationships or genetic

in accuracy reflect differences between breeds in the size of the

similarity to a greater extent than with pedigree relationships alone. How useful this is depends on the existence, size and

genomic reference population for each trait in each breed. For

composition of the genomic reference population - animals

example, the number of animals with records for days to calving

that have performance records and a genotype.

and genotypes is larger in Brahman than in Hereford.





Average increase in accuracy for animals with 0% prior accuracy

Average increase in accuracy for animals with 30% prior accuracy

Average increase in accuracy for animals with 0% prior accuracy

Average increase in accuracy for animals with 30% prior accuracy

Average increase in accuracy for animals with 0% prior accuracy

Average increase in accuracy for animals with 30% prior accuracy

200 Day Weight







Days to Calving*







IMF (Marbling)







*Note that there is insufficient performance data for Days to Calving in Wagyu for reliable EBVs. 13

Here again we can see a group of animals (highlighted with the orange arrow in the chart) that had identical 400 Day Weight EBVs in a standard BREEDPLAN analysis - a 400 Day Weight EBV of +28 - that have been spread apart in their 400 Day Weight EBV through Single-Step BREEDPLAN - now ranging from +12 to +34. Again, these animals are likely to be a group of full-sibs

Within a breed, the same thing applies relating to traits - traits with more records in the genomic reference population will see larger average increases in accuracy than traits with fewer records. Thirdly, the correlation between animals’ non-genomic EBV and genomic EBV is very high. We can see this in the example of Single-Step BREEDPLAN and standard BREEDPLAN EBVs for Days to Calving, for genotyped Brahman animals born in 2017 (below), and analysed in June 2018. The correlation between their Single-Step EBVs and EBVs from a standard Brahman BREEDPLAN analysis is 0.77 - this means that the animals with favourable EBVs from a non-genomic analysis will on average still rank well on a Single-step BREEDPLAN analysis. There is however some movement - some animals’ EBVs increase from standard BREEDPLAN to Single-Step BREEDPLAN, while other animals’ EBVs decrease.

without their own performance record. Note here that the correlation between the Single-Step BREEDPLAN and standard BREEDPLAN EBVs is higher -this reflects the combination of: n The heritability of 400 Day Weight is higher than that of Days to Calving. n Many of the animals could also have their own record for 400 day weight. n The genomic reference population for 400 day weight in Hereford may be larger than that for days to calving in Brahmans.

A very useful feature of the Single-Step BREEDPLAN analysis is apparent from the chart: there are a number of animals whose Days to Calving EBV would all be -7 under the standard BREEDPLAN analysis, that now have a spread of Days to Calving EBVs from +10 to -14 under Single- Step BREEDPLAN (shown by the orange arrow in the chart). These could be a group of animals with mid-parent EBVs - the Single-Step BREEDPLAN analysis drills into their genes more closely, and spreads their EBVs apart. This illustrates how genomics can help identify the animals with the best genes within a full-sib flush, for example.

Key Messages n Single-Step BREEDPLAN is producing EBVs, changes in EBVs and changes in accuracy that are in line with what we expect from the theory. n We are seeing modest increases in average EBV accuracy, somewhat larger for animals with genotypes than those without. n We are seeing useful increases in EBV accuracy for those animals whose prior accuracy is lower. n Single-Step BREEDPLAN EBVs line up well with standard BREEDPLAN EBVs - the average change is essentially zero; but individual animals can change their EBVs quite markedly. The relationship between Single-Step and standard BREEDPLAN EBVs is strong, reflected in high correlations between the two analyses. n The amount of increase in accuracy varies between breeds and traits, and reflects the size of the genomic reference population (the animals with genotypes and performance records).

We can make a similar chart for 400 Day Weight EBVs in Hereford, again for animals born in 2017 and with genotypes:

n Together, these mean that Single-Step BREEDPLAN provides an opportunity to evaluate young animals for more traits, depending of course on what has been recorded in the breed genomic reference population (what traits, how many animals). AGBU and ABRI are currently working with other breeds towards the implementation of Single-Step BREEDPLAN, with the most important considerations being the size and composition of the reference population, and whether we are confident that we can generate reliable genomic EBVs for the breed. The research includes developing the best approach to generating accurate genomic EBVs in breeds or populations that are mixtures of different original breeds. 14

The Repronomics Project Enabling Genetic Improvement in Reproduction in Northern Australia


eproduction is a key profit driver in northern Australia, with the Beef CRC Northern Reproduction project having shown that genetics has a clear role to play

in improving commercial weaning rates. Two of the traits identified as important for genetic improvement in fertility are heifer age at puberty and first-lactation anoestrus interval. The emerging technology of genomics also has the potential to add significantly to our ability to make genetic progress in reproduction. To maximise the rate of genetic improvement in reproduction traits, there is a need for considerably more reproductive phenotypes and genotypes to build the size of the genomic reference populations within the northern beef breeds. The Repronomics project, headed by Dr. David Johnston from

Figure 1. Properties involved in the Repronomics Project and breeds involved at each property.

the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (ABGU) in Armidale and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), aims to address

Sires Used

this need. The Repronomics project is generating significant

Both AI sires and naturally-mated backup bulls have been used

numbers of calves and recording large numbers of females for

to generate progeny for the Repronomics project. The sires

age at puberty, lactation anoestrus interval, calving and weaning

selected for the project have been chosen as they are currently

rates, along with many other traits in three major northern beef

influential in each of the breeds (i.e. widely used sires with a

breeds. SNP genotypes are also being collected on all project

large number of progeny generated in the last five years). In

animals, as well as key industry animals. When combined with

addition, some emerging young sires have been used in each

the phenotype records described above, this dataset will drive

breed. Particular emphasis has been placed on selecting sires

new genomics enhanced BREEDPLAN evaluations.

which have no or limited numbers of daughters recorded for reproduction traits in BREEDPLAN. The aim is to generate 15-

Location and Breeds

20 daughters from each sire and intensively record them for

The Repronomics project involves three breeds, namely

early reproduction. For Droughtmasters, a selection of older

Brahman, Droughtmaster and Santa Gertrudis. The project

sires has also been used to allow estimation of breed genetic

is being conducted on two Queensland Department of

parameters, particularly for female reproduction traits. To-

Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) research facilities, being Brian Pastures near Gayndah and Spyglass near Charters Towers,

date, the project has generated progeny on over 300 sires.

and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry

Females Generated and Key Trait Recording

and Fisheries’ Douglas Daly Research Farm, Daly River (Figure

Currently the project has generated approximately 5,500 calves

1). The project is also utilizing industry seedstock herds located

from six year drops. Breeding is by natural mating for maidens

throughout Queensland.

and first-lactation cows. The majority of older cows have

The Brian Pastures and Spyglass herds consist of pedigree and

been used for AI (2 rounds fixed-time program) to generate

performance recorded females, and include a proportion of ex-

progeny on the key industry sires, and although the project has

Beef CRC cows used as base females that are fully BREEDPLAN

experienced below average seasonal conditions in the first two

recorded. At Brian Pastures, all three breeds are present,

years, the resultant calving rates to AI have been very good,

whereas at Spyglass there are Brahman and Droughtmasters.

averaging 50%.

At each location, the breeds are managed and recorded together and are only separated into individual breeds during

Real-time ultrasound is performed on a regular basis on all

a 12 week mating period. This is providing unique data for the

females to accurately determine the follicle development, and

future development of across-breed EBVs.

importantly, the presence of a corpus luteum (CL). Every year 15

the cohort of maiden heifers are regularly scanned to determine age at observed CL (Figure 2) which is used as a measure of age at puberty for each heifer. All first-lactation cows are also regularly scanned during the mating season to determine their time to return to cycling post-calving. Post-weaning all noncycling females continue to be scanned until a CL is observed. To-date the project has recorded more than 2,500 heifers on the research station herds for age at puberty and about 1,500 first-lactation cows for their anoestrus interval. All females are regularly recorded for body weight, hip height, body condition score, subcutaneous fat depth, and eye muscle area. At calving, each cow is scored for calving ease, teat and udder score, maternal behavior and body condition. All performance data is sent to ABRI and uploaded on to the northern multi-breed research database.

Collecting Ovarian and Carcase scanning data at Brian Pastures.

The aim is to include the Repronomics data in the individual

the female recording at the research stations, and completes

breed BREEDPLAN evaluations; this is currently underway

the suite of key profit driver traits for northern beef production

and it is expected that this data will be available in the individual breed BREEDPLAN evaluations in the near future.


DNA Genotyping

Enabling Genomic Selection

To enable the development of genomic selection, all females

The existing BREEBPLAN analysis allows differences in phenotypic performance to be used in the known relative’s

have been DNA parent verified and genotyped with a 25K SNP

analysis, whereas the single-step evaluation will allow genetic

chip, while all project sires are genotyped with an 80K Bos

differences between individuals to be influenced through

indicus SNP chip. Large numbers of seedstock animals have

their degree of genomic relationship. Therefore animals with

also been genotyped, including sires in co-operator industry

large amounts of phenotypic information when genotyped

herds and other sires in Brahman and Santa Gertrudis with

will influence the EBVs and accuracies of any animal that is

high accuracy BREEDPLAN Day to Calving EBVs.

genomically related.

Male Progeny

As the genetic evaluations of the tropical breeds move towards

The Douglas Daly male calves remain entire, whereas the Brian

Single-Step BREEDPLAN methodology, the data and research

Pastures and Spyglass bull calves are castrated at branding.

outcomes from the Repronomics project will be pivotal in

After weaning, these steers are sold to the Northern BIN

driving forward the new genetic evaluation. The project is also

project. The steers are grown-out and recorded for post-

generating phenotypes and genotypes on current industry-

weaning performance and subsequent full abattoir carcase and

relevant genetics and this provides the northern breeding

meat quality assessments. The steer recording complements

industry with the unique opportunity to implement genomic selection, increasing the accuracy of selection of young bulls, particularly for important female reproduction traits. Conclusion Levels of recording of the project-generated females are increasing and the data is feeding into new BREEDPLAN evaluations that will enable tropical breeds to make genetic change in improving female reproduction rates. The project has uniquely recorded herds that will allow genetics to be compared across environments, and will be a powerful resource enabling industry herds to be benchmarked for reproduction traits, as well as many other traits including overall genetic merit. Finally, the head-tohead management of breeds will provide the necessary data to

Figure 2. Cumulative frequencies of first observed CL from regular ovarian scanning of the 2014 drop Spyglass heifers weaned mid-2014.

generate across-breed genomic EBVs for large numbers of traits. 16

Lessons from the 2018 World Congress for Genetics Applied to Livestock Production


n February, SBTS staff attended the 11th World Congress for Genetics Applied to Livestock Production which was held in Auckland, New Zealand. This congress is the premier

thanked all of those that have supported the project, including

event for researchers, extension and other industry personnel

businesses. It was very satisfying to present our work, field

involved in the genetic improvement of livestock including

questions and see how the project matched up against the

cattle, sheep, goats, deer, horses, poultry and aquaculture. The

work and experiences of others engaged in similar activities.

the stakeholders and their staff and all of the individual beef producers who have welcomed us into their homes and

World Congress is held every four years with 1480 delegates

Some of key messages, relevant to Australian cattle producers,

from around the world attending to listen and learn from the

to come out of the congress were:

753 scientific papers presented in 2018.


The SBTS staff were kept extremely busy presenting our

For livestock industries using genomic information in their genetic evaluations, single-step is the standard

own papers, learning from the latest developments and

methodology being adopted. The main reason for this is

experiences, meeting with representatives from various

that single-step allows the estimation of more accurate

organisations including breed societies and DNA testing

breeding values for animals that were previously affected

companies, and networking with colleagues involved in

by a lack of data and/or poor data structure. These include

livestock genetics extension around the world. Papers

animals that are too young to have certain traits recorded,

presented by SBTS and BREEDPLAN research scientists

traits that are hard and/or expensive to measure and

at AGBU covered implementing Single-Step BREEDPLAN

animals in small contemporary groups (e.g. sick animals,

evaluations, evaluating sperm abnormality traits, the effect of

show team or ET progeny).

the environment on breeding objectives and the SBTS project.


Even though the single-step methodology is becoming well established, there is still a lot of research and development

The SBTS paper was titled “Southern Beef Technology

going on in this space. The BREEDPLAN staff and

Services: Eleven Years of Facilitating Genetic Improvement

researchers in attendance were certainly taking note of

in the Southern Australian Beef Industry” and can be found

what new and exciting directions this may take us in the

at the following link The paper covered


the extension activities and impact of the project, including some metrics illustrating the knowledge gained by breeders


as a result of participating in SBTS activities. SBTS also

Quality genetic evaluations still require large quantities of accurate trait data. One theme from the Congress was

WCGALP 2018 wasn’t just about the presentations. Here’s a photo from the beef field trip, where we had the opportunity to look at the NZ beef industry and some of the research projects that are currently underway 17

Catriona presents the SBTS paper entitled “Southern Beef Technology Services: Eleven Years of Facilitating Genetic Improvement in the Southern Australian Beef Industry” at WCGALP2018.

selection for hard and/or expensive to measure traits. These included feed efficiency, carcase, fertility and methane emissions traits. The unanimous conclusion was that even with the inclusion of genomic data into genetic evaluations, quality recording of traits remains vitally important to the accuracy of the analyses. n

One cattle paper identified that each individual in their study had approximately 120 recessive deleterious alleles (gene copies). The presence of so many of these deleterious alleles illustrates one of the dangers of inbreeding, as inbred progeny risk being affected by a genetic condition after inheriting the recessive allele from both parents. The ability to use genomic data to calculate the levels of inbreeding present in individuals was a potential future development also discussed at the congress. It is thought that this will be more accurate than the current method, which calculates the level of inbreeding based on the presence of common ancestors in a pedigree.


The same study also found that, on average, 64.2 new mutations were found in each individual that were not found in either parent. These new mutations were not all deleterious; in fact some were likely to be beneficial and the majority had no identifiable effect. This is an exciting finding as it means that there is always new variation to be exploited in the next generation(s).


Our mid conference tour visited Storth Oaks Angus at Otorohanga, where we heard from a variety of presenters

including Beef and Lamb NZ Beef Genetics Manager Max Tweedie, American Angus Director of Genetic Research Stephen Miller and Storth Oaks stud principal Tim Brittain. SBTS was impressed with the format of the 2017 Storth Oaks sale catalogue. Find out more in the article ‘Using the EBV Percentile Graph in Sale Catalogues’ in this edition of the SBTS & TBTS Update.

Brad Crook (BREEDPLAN) reviewing the different genetic evaluation methodologies that are being applied around the world at WCGALP 2018.


Talking Genetics at BEEF 2018


SBTS and TBTS staff recently had the pleasure of once again being involved in the triennial beef industry showcase event, Beef Australia, held in Rockhampton

on 7-11 May. A week-long trade stall in the Durack Pavilion played host to invaluable conversations between staff and producers, along with industry service providers, from around the world. It was encouraging to have numerous seedstock producers (both new and long-standing) reach out and wanting to learn more about the benefits of BREEDPLAN and what exactly is involved in terms of submitting data, contemporary groups etc. Close to 20 SBTS & TBTS publications were on display for visitors to take, along with breed specific documents and technical tip sheets made available to meet enquiry needs.

Kaiuroo property tour

On Monday 7th, the TBTS team were out kicking the dirt on-farm speaking as part of concurrent property tours. Paul Williams delivered a presentation and provided a scanning demonstration (ovarian and carcase) at the platinum Kaiuroo tour, hosted by Jennifer McCamley and Tom Emmery. Eighteen individuals took part in the full day tour which showcased the Kaiuroo MDC project, the Repronomics and BIN projects, scanning demos, along with in-depth conversations around genetic technologies and genomics. Tim Emery was involved in presenting to the 100-strong crowd (which included 30 Argentinians) that attended the Mt Elsa property tour, hosted by Steve and Claire Farmer. The group were split into two, with one session predominantly focused on irrigated pastures and the Wagyu crossbreeding program, and the other on data collection, genetics focused research project

Mt Elsa property tour

findings and genetic technologies. Tim spoke specifically about BREEDPLAN and genetic progress in the SC Grazing Droughtmaster herd. Many thanks must go to Paul Williams for representing our extension team on the Westpac property tours organising committee. Throughout the week, staff attended a handful of seminars relating to genetics and reproduction, visited trade areas relevant to the breeds they service (Boyd Gudex gave a BREEDPLAN presentation to Limousin breeders), took part in events (such as the book launch for Sale-O and Smokos) and meetings, and attended networking functions to establish new networks and build on existing ones. Once again, our collective team thoroughly enjoyed chatting with beef producers and industry service providers from across the globe at Beef 2018 and can’t wait to be back in 2021!

SBTS & TBTS stand in the Durack pavilion


BREEDPLAN Discussion Group Now on Facebook


re you on Facebook? If you are, come and join us in the BREEDPLAN Discussion Group. SBTS & TBTS, together with BREEDPLAN, set up the BREEDPLAN

Discussion Group in late May 2018. The group is intended to be an online community where members can discuss BREEDPLAN, share opinions, ask

your state that scan their cattle may be able to point you in the

questions and engage with each other. You don’t have to be

right direction. You won’t find these things out unless you ask.

a BREEDPLAN member to join this group - we expect the group will appeal to a mix of cattle producers, from long-term

We also expect the group will provide direction for some of

BREEDPLAN members through to those that are considering

our extension initiatives - if there is a particular topic you

joining BREEEDPLAN, and other beef industry personnel.

would like to learn more about, let us know! While we will still

Ideally, we would like to see this group become a hub for

advertise upcoming events on the SBTS & TBTS Facebook page, information on upcoming events will also be available

asking questions and learning from other producers - someone in another breed, state or country might have a great way of

through the BREEDPLAN Discussion Group.

doing something on their property (e.g. a certain method they

The BREEDPLAN Discussion Group administrators are

use to record birth weight) which you can adapt for your own

Catriona Millen (SBTS) and Samantha Rawson (BREEDPLAN).


To join us, search ‘BREEDPLAN Discussion Group’ on

You might be uncertain about which ultrasound scanners

Facebook or enter the following address into your browser:

come to your state, and when they will be there - others from



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 http://, Twitter account at http://twitter.

com/SBTSTBTS or YouTube Channel at user/sbtstbts.


TBTS Visits Western Australia


n February Paul (TBTS) was in Western Australia to present at the Gingin Beef Cattle field day held at Cundarra Santa Gertrudis stud. The day was run by the Western Australian

Santa Gertrudis Breeders Branch and attracted around 70 people from all over the state. Other speakers included Jarrod Lees from MLA who discussed MSA and the DEXA technology. Paul’s presentation included an overview of the traits for which BREEDPLAN EBVs are available and how these EBVs are interpreted. Paul then showed how EBVs provide an accurate prediction of the differences in progeny performance, using results from the Brahman and Northern BIN projects

Attendees at Gingin Beef Cattle field day, Cundarra Santa Gertrudis stud.

to do so. To demonstrate this, the average EBVs of the top 5 bulls and the bottom 5 bulls was shown for a number of traits, and the expected differences in progeny performance (as calculated from the EBVs) were compared to the actual observed differences in progeny performance. As shown in the 400 day weight example in Figure 1, the observed differences in progeny performance were very similar to the differences you would expect to see when calculating progeny performance from the EBVs of the sires. Paul also highlighted the increase in EBV accuracy as a result of data collected in the BIN projects; showing the increase in accuracy of the BIN sire’s EBVs from the start of the project and after the inclusion of the BIN data in the BREEDPLAN analysis. Paul also gave an update on several of the genetic research projects currently underway in Northern Australia. These

Figure 1. The observed (17 kg) and expected (17.5 kg) difference in steer progeny performance for the top 5 and bottom 5 sires for 400 Day Weight in the Banana co-operator herd from the Brahman BIN project.

include the Brahman BIN, Northern BIN and Repronomics projects. An overview of the projects and preliminary results were presented to the audience for both fertility and carcase traits.

south of Perth. Discussions were focused on the submission

While in WA, Paul also conducted herd visits starting at Gingin

of joining data and collection of flight time data with the flight

then traveling to Northampton and finally down to Bunbury

time machine Paul took with him.

Australian Gelbvieh Association Re-join SBTS Project


n February 2018, the Australian Gelbvieh Association re-joined the SBTS project as a stakeholder breed society. The Australian Gelbvieh Association was last a SBTS stakeholder in 2016, during a previous phase of the SBTS

project. The decision by the Australian Gelbvieh Association to re-join the project brings the total number of breed society stakeholders involved in the SBTS project to 14. SBTS welcomes the Australian Gelbvieh Association as a stakeholder breed society, and looks forward to working with Gelbvieh breeders in the future. 21

SBTS Facilitates Regional Forums and BullSELECT Workshops in Western Australia


BTS facilitated three BullSELECT workshops for Western Australian bull buyers in January 2018. The BullSELECT workshops were an initiative of Western

Beef Association Inc., a not-for-profit industry group, based in WA, which fosters independent and progressive upskilling activities. While in WA, SBTS also took the opportunity to present three Regional Forums to seedstock producers. The program for these forums was the same as for those held in the eastern states in 2017. Regional Forums The Regional Forums were held at Albany, Bunbury and Perth and were attended by 38 people. The attendees represented over 30% of the WA BREEDPLAN herds from SBTS & TBTS stakeholder breed societies. This was an amazing turnout given the proximity of the forums to both the summer holidays and the bull sale season in WA. Overall feedback indicated that these Regional Forums were well received. 94% of attendees rated the Regional Forums as excellent or very good, while 82% stated that they would be extremely or very likely to attend a Regional Forum in the future. When asked, 100% of attendees said that they felt they had a better understanding of BREEDPLAN following their

the biggest improvements made in relation to interpreting the

attendance at the Regional Forum.

Completeness of Performance reports and in understanding

A measure of learning outcomes from the Regional Forums


was obtained by asking attendees the same set of questions both before and after the Regional Forum. By comparing the

BullSELECT Workshops

percentage of correct answers before and after the forum, we

The BullSELECT workshops were hosted by Venturon

saw that attendees displayed a 41% increase in knowledge, with

Charolais at Boyup Brook, Kingslane Red Angus at Benger and Koojan Hills Angus & Melaleuca Murray Greys at Manypeaks. Approximately 100 people attended the workshops. The BullSELECT workshops combined practical discussion and yard demonstrations to educate beef producers about how best to utilise BREEDPLAN information when making animal selection decisions. Bulls were also on hand to demonstrate the difficulty in visually assessing the genetics of an animal without EBVs. Judging by the uncertainty as to which bull had the better genetics for various traits, this very effectively demonstrated the need for consideration of both visual traits and EBVs when making selection decisions. 22

Audience feedback revealed that 91% of attendees rated the BullSELECT workshops as excellent or very good. Importantly, 96% of attendees said that as a result of the BullSELECT workshop, they had a better understanding of how to use BREEDPLAN information when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, 84% of attendees said they were more likely to use BREEDPLAN information when making purchasing decisions. BullSELECT learning outcomes showed that attendee knowledge increased by almost a quarter. The biggest improvements in knowledge were made in relation to interpreting EBVs and using selection indexes. SBTS gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the host herds, Western Beef Inc. and Accioly Livestock Industries Services (ALIS) to the successful running of the BullSELECT Workshops.

Help Your Clients to Purchase the Right Bulls with a BullSELECT Workshop


o you want to help your clients select bulls with the optimum genetics for their breeding objectives? Host a BullSELECT workshop and SBTS and TBTS will show

Now being offered at a reduced price, the BullSELECT workshop is available to: n

your clients how. The one day BullSELECT workshop combines


practical discussions and yard demonstrations to educate beef


producers about how best to utilise BREEDPLAN information


Facilitated by SBTS and TBTS staff, the BullSELECT workshop


Interpreting and understanding BREEDPLAN EBVs and

For further information, please see the BullSELECT brochure and example program (available on the SBTS and TBTS websites via the provided links). Alternatively, please contact staff at SBTS or TBTS.

Selection Indexes n

Using online searches to source the right genetics

n Practical

Private consultants and State Government Departments who wish to educate clients or local producers

covers: Understanding the value of genetics

Breeder and producer groups who wish to educate their members

when making animal selection decisions and purchasing bulls.


Individual seedstock producers who wish to educate their


bull selection exercises using demonstration


cattle, including a Mock Auction 23

2018 REGIONAL FORUMS TBTS is running a regional forum in Rockhampton, QLD in August 2018.


The regional forum will cover a number of important topics, including an update on the inclusion of genomic information in BREEDPLAN. There will also be several interactive sessions, where attendees will have the opportunity to reflect upon the amount of performance recording achieved for their own herd, and also to investigate whether they are making genetic progress and meeting their own breeding objectives. n

A program is provided on the following page and gives an overview of the sessions to be presented at the regional forum.

$35* for members of an TBTS or SBTS Stakeholder Breed Society TBTS = Belmont Red, Brahman, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Santa Gertrudis, Senepol & Simbrah. SBTS = Blonde d’Aquitaine, Charolais, Devon, Gelbvieh, Hereford, Limousin, Murray Grey, Red Angus, Red Poll, Salers, Shorthorn, Simmental, Speckle Park & Wagyu. $70* for those that are not members of an TBTS or SBTS Stakeholder Breed Society This includes members of other Breed Societies and other industry representatives.

*Includes 30c non-refundable booking fee.

Morning tea and lunch will be provided

Numbers for the regional forum are limited, so be quick to ensure that you secure a place. To register, please go to

For catering purposes please register by 24th August 2018.





28th August

8.45 am - 3.30 pm


QDAF - Rockhampton

For Further Information Contact Paul Williams TBTS Technical OďŹƒcer Website:


Phone: (07) 4927 6066 Mobile: 0427 018 982 Email:



8.45 am 8.45 am

Registration Registration

9.00 am 9.00 am

Welcome Welcome

9.15 am 9.15 am

BREEDPLAN 101: Recording Performance BREEDPLAN 101: Recording Information In Your Herd Performance Information In Your Herd

10.00 am 10.00 am

BREEDPLAN Contemporary Groups & Genetic Linkage BREEDPLAN Contemporary Groups & Genetic Linkage

10.40 am 10.40 am

Morning Tea Morning Tea

11.00 am 11.00 am

Making BREEDPLAN Work For You: Common Performance Making BREEDPLAN For You: Common Recording Problems Work and How to Avoid ThemPerformance Recording Problems and How to Avoid Them

12.00 pm 12.00 pm

How Much Performance Data Do You Collect? How Much Performance Data DoofYou Collect? Report Interpreting Your Completeness Performance Interpreting Your Completeness of Performance Report

12.45 pm 12.45 pm

Lunch Lunch

1.30 pm 1.30 pm

Are You Making Progress? Are You Making Interpreting YourProgress? Genetic Progress Report Interpreting Your Genetic Progress Report

2.15 pm 2.15 pm

Single Step BREEDPLAN: What Does Genomics Mean For You? Single Step BREEDPLAN: What Does Genomics Mean For You?

3.15 pm 3.15 pm

Closing Remarks Closing Remarks

For Further Information Contact For Further Information Contact

Paul Williams TBTS Technical Officer Paul Williams Website: TBTS Technical Officer

Phone: (07) 4927 6066 Mobile: 04274927 018 6066 982 Phone: (07) Email: Mobile: 0427 018 982




Locations of BREEDPLAN Members of SBTS & TBTS Stakeholder Breed Societies


igures 1 and 2 show the locations of BREEDPLAN members of SBTS & TBTS stakeholder breed societies around Australia and New Zealand (please note that

As you can see from these maps, there would be little point in

New Zealand herds are members of Australian-based breed

Instead, we will utilise these maps to find the best locations for

holding a SBTS & TBTS Regional Forum in Broome, WA or Coober Pedy, SA.


SBTS & TBTS events, and to ensure that events are central to

While it is interesting to see where herds are based, these maps

as many herds in the area as possible.

play a greater role than just satisfying curiosity. These maps also

This is just one of the reasons that it is essential that you keep

play a critical role when we are planning SBTS & TBTS events.

your contact details up to date with your breed societies.

Figure 1. Locations of BREEDPLAN members of SBTS stakeholder breed societies.

Figure 2. Locations of BREEDPLAN members of TBTS stakeholder breed societies. 26

Speckle Park & Senepol Upgrade to ILR2 Software


n 2018, both Speckle Park International and the Australian Senepol Cattle Breeders Association upgraded the software used to manage their pedigree and performance database

Furthermore, a GROUP BREEDPLAN analysis means that

to ABRI’s new generation of breed registry software known as

nor Days to Calving EBVs are available in a Within-Herd


BREEDPLAN analysis, but, with a sufficient number of records,

A consequence of the upgrade to the new software is the

are options in GROUP BREEDPLAN analyses. There will also

there is the opportunity for EBVs for additional traits to be published in the future. For example, neither Calving Ease

be the potential to create BreedObject selection indexes for

transition for both Speckle Park International and the

these breeds.

Australian Senepol Cattle Breeders Association to conduct GROUP BREEDPLAN analyses.

Previously breeders in

A second advantage of the upgrade to the new software is the

these associations had their own Within-Herd BREEDPLAN

production of enhanced BREEDPLAN herd reports. These,

analyses. A GROUP BREEDPLAN analysis has the advantage

along with the opportunity to conduct GROUP BREEDPLAN

of allowing breeders to benchmark their animals relative to the

analyses, will significantly enhance the BREEDPLAN service

rest of the breed (and not just relative to the rest of the herd as

that is provided to members of Speckle Park BREEDPLAN and

is the case in a Within-Herd analysis).


Optimise Joining Using MateSel


eedstock producers in Australia who are members of a breed society with a published Selection Index are encouraged to consider using the MateSel mating




Diversity”, “Balanced” or “High Genetic Gain” and providing

optimisation tool when planning their upcoming joinings.

details of their desired breeding objective.

MateSel creates additional genetic progress within a breeding




MateSel analysis are returned

program by generating a suggested mating list from a list of

promptly, usually within one working day.

sires and dams that a seedstock producer nominates as being available for use within their upcoming joining program.

MateSel is a valuable addition to the BREEDPLAN suite of

MateSel not only allows seedstock producers to maximise

tools that are offered by the Agricultural Business Research

genetic progress whilst managing inbreeding, but will also save

Institute (ABRI) in Armidale, NSW.

significant time previously spent compiling mating lists.

Seedstock members interested in learning more about MateSel

MateSel is fully customised to the breeding program of each

should visit the BREEDPLAN website (http://breedplan.une.

individual seedstock operation with the seedstock producer and click on the MateSel icon on the right hand side,

choosing acceptable inbreeding limits by selecting one of three

or contact staff at SBTS or TBTS. 27

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) 6773 4222 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: 28