HEREFORD breeders are bringing frontline DNA technologies into the fold of genetic evaluations in a move expected to significantly lift accuracy for key commercial traits.
Single Step genomic evaluations, which give a clearer picture of how an animal will breed via the use of genomic profiles alongside pedigree and performance data, is world-first and multi-country technology.
The first Hereford estimated breeding values (EBVs) using Single Step have just been released, thanks to collaborative work between Herefords Australia (HA) and Armidale’s Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit and Agricultural Business Research Institute.
More than 3500 genotyped animals, including more than a thousand sires, are in the HA Single Step analysis.
For many key genetic traits, an animal with a genotype can be expected to have a genomically enhanced EBV calculated at around 40 per cent in accuracy - an improvement of 10 to 15pc in accuracy.
As such, Single Step is credited with the ability to radically speed-up of the rate of genetic progress in beef herds.
It will reduce the time it takes to get accurate selections and cut down generational intervals, leading animal scientists say.
The methodology has been around for close to five years and is being used in international dairy, pork and sheep evaluations.
It is just starting to make its way into beef populations. In Australia, Brahmans and Angus are on the job, along with a few smaller breeds.
HA’s manager of research and technical implementation Dr Alex Ball said the introduction of Single Step would provide world leading genetic analysis for the Hereford breed and allow breeders to make more informed selection decisions, which would hopefully translate into faster rates of genetic gain for the breed.
HA explained the implementation of this new system of genetic evaluation would represent a major platform change for livestock breeding.
In order to obtain the full benefit of the Single Step analysis, breeders would need to have animals with a minimum of a low density genotype, available through any of the new HA DNA test bundles.
However, as pedigree information is still used, all animals will see some impact from the new analysis, according to HA.
Importantly, the highest accuracies will be generated for those animals who are genomically related to a reference population - in this case, the Trans-Tasman Hereford Breedplan database and the HA BIN program.
Hereford seedstock producers welcomed the uptake of technology to incorporate genomics into evaluations.
Marc Greening, Injemira, said it was certainly a step in the right direction for long term future developments in genetic evaluations.
“It’s welcome that the Hereford breed is at the pointy end of delivering the best possible product for the Australian beef industry,” he said.
Adrian Spencer, Ironbark, said a strong breed will find the best genetics in the world and incorporate them.
“We have to think past our own front gate and past Australia,” he said.
“Genomics should deliver this for us and quicken the pace of our gain.”