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As a progressive and innovative lotfeeder, Stockyard is piloting the use of a new genomic prediction tool aimed squarely at steers in conjunction with Angus Australia and the CSIRO.
The company's Kerwee facility is one of four leading Australian feedlots to trial the use of Angus Australia Angus SteerSELECT product on approximately 500 head of cattle being fed for 200 days.
Angus SteerSELECT is similar to Angus HeiferSELECT and can predict the genetic merit of commercial Angus steers for selecting animals to go into the most suitable production systems and end markets.
Its predictions can be made for key profit-driving traits, including health, growth and carcase merit.
The new system enables the relationship between animals and their genetics to be determined through analysis of a DNA profiles alone.
We want to support initiatives that will create quality from the farm gate to the restaurant table, or other high end retail markets.
It is underpinned by Angus Australia's performance and genotype reference population, primarily derived from the association's leading Angus Sire Benchmarking Program, and the Angus-specific genotyping platforms.
Angus SteerSELECT is calibrated to predict performance differences of Australian Angus steers in Australian feedlots.
And, when further validated, Angus SteerSELECT has the potential to underpin the development of value-based payment grids at the processing end of the supply chain.
Stockyard's General Manager of Feedlot Operations, George Lubbe, said while the trials were long-term, the new system would have a very positive impact on the company's brand performance.
"In the short term, our cattle suppliers will be major beneficiaries," he said.
"With proven genetics, we can offer them performance incentives. "We want to help the industry set up these systems to keep ahead of the game."
Mr Lubbe said the Angus cattle at Kerwee were on 200-day long-fed programs and there were huge efficiencies and returns on investment to be gained by being able to identify the best performers as early as possible - before they arrived for finishing.
"Producers will be able to then choose the best genetic pools and eliminate the non-performers from the supply chain," he said.
"We supply Angus beef to the best markets in the world and consistency and quality are key to our success.
"To achieve this, we need to select on key drivers for animal health, average daily gains, feed conversion, carcase yields, and good marbling and eating quality.
"Not only will this provide quality products, but it will also reduce costs of production for all players."
Mr Lubbe said, at an industry scale, SteerSELECT trials could feed into development of a value-based payment grid for Angus producers.
He suggested it may mean splitting payments to 50 per cent up-front based on predictive performance before feeding, and the balance after processing based on actual carcase information.
"Producers would then be paid for improving the performance of their herd, and the profits from doing this would flow up the supply chain," he said.
"The benefits are improved efficiencies for all stakeholders and generation of more value in the supply chain.
"We want to support initiatives that will create quality from the farm gate to the restaurant table or other high end retail markets."
Mr Lubbe said Stockyard was in a growth phase for its award-winning branded beef, which was targeted at premium markets.
Angus Australia's Strategic Projects Manager Christian Duff said Angus SteerSELECT would benefit all Angus producers by using the latest genomic technologies to better understand the performance potential of Angus cattle entering the grain-fed system.
"Producers and their supply change partners, like Stockyard, will be able to look at the data and make informed drafting and selection decisions earlier than they have ever been able to before," he said.
"With this product we can better understand genetics and associated performance at any stage of the supply chain and, through feedback mechanisms, use those for future breeding of key traits being sought by the market."
Mr Duff said during the feedlot trials, approximately 500 head of long-fed steers from each of the four facilities would have DNA samples collected and data collected through to carcase stage.
He said a DNA profile would be generated on each steer and genetic predictions made using Angus SteerSELECT for 9 different traits.
With this product we can better understand genetics and associated performance at any stage of the supply chain and, through feedback mechanisms, use those for future breeding of key traits being sought by the market
This will then be compared against the steers feedlot performance, health and carcase outcomes and provided back to the feedlot to discuss with its cattle suppliers. Carcase results should be available in early 2022.
"Overall, this will facilitate Angus cattle going into the appropriate supply chain and market based on objective genetic data," Mr Duff said.
"It means connecting the genetics from the breeder, to the feedlot and processor, and the consumer.
"We chose to work with Stockyard as it is a well renowned operator with a history of taking part in innovative research and developments.
"The company is a leader when it comes to collaborative efforts of industry to make improvements."