November 1, 2022
Video news package available here.
Better genetics are quickly becoming the hero to developing sustainable, efficient cattle herds. As producers seek reliable genetics to improve efficiency and carcass quality, animals with genomic information provide opportunities to reach goals at a faster pace.
In 2022, the American Hereford Association (AHA) reaches a milestone of 10 years for using genomic-enhanced expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs) in its genetic evaluation. By blending conventional EPDs with genomic data gathered from DNA testing, GE-EPDs have a significantly higher success rate in predicting progeny performance. Shane Bedwell, director of breed improvement for the Association, explains the benefits.
“Commercial producers — they’re buying a well-rounded bull that has the guesswork taken out of it. The amount of breed improvement those producers can make in buying a bull that has its data captured at an early stage in life, they have a great leg up,” Bedwell says. “The possible change of a young sire becomes minimized drastically when you’re buying a bull that has all of the phenotypic and genomic data included in its EPDs.”
Commercial cattlemen who buy bulls with GE-EPDs — or producers who request cattle to be genotyped — will mitigate future risk in their breeding programs. The more genomic information they have, the more accurate genetic predictions and expressed phenotypes become. The accuracy of GE-EPDs on unproven animals are equal to 20 progeny records on average, depending on the trait.
“When our producers request an animal to be genotyped, they get lots of information,” says Jack Ward, AHA executive vice president. “If all of the parents are there, they get a parent verification. They get all of the genetic abnormalities tested for. And then, we produce a genotype that is used in the evaluation to help predict the EPDs and make them more reliable.”
The AHA was one of the first to develop and market genomic predictions, and Hereford breeders saw the improvements after applying the technology to their herds. Since then, the Baldy Maternal Index (BMI$) increased 43%, the Brahman-Influenced Index (BII$) increased 55%, and the Certified Hereford Beef Index (CHB$) increased 10%.
But 10 years is only the beginning for applying genomic technology to trait selection. Ward expects there to be more EPDs added in the future that will help the breed and its producers select for sustainable genetics in the industry.
“When you talk about sustainability and effects on the environment, I believe there is either going to be a trait in terms of an economic index or an EPD that will help us predict those genetics that are less harmful to the environment, or have a better effect on it,” Ward says. “I think the sky is the limit on what we might do.”
To learn more about GE-EPDs, visit Hereford.org.