Improving Productivity, Eating Quality and Price Competitiveness
Genetics is a fascinating discipline and as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century (2020-the year of The Visionary), there is so much of this complex discipline and the associated Biology that we don’t understand. This lack of comprehension is definitely limiting the structuring and implementation of Genetic Measurement Systems to Improve Beef Productivity, Eating Quality and Price Competitiveness.
Historically genetic measurement has been about making Phenotypic measurements e.g. liveweight in Beef Cattle and accumulating sufficient data to be able to assign numbers to individuals within groups according to their Genetic Merit for the trait in question. Advances in computer technology and power has meant Statisticians have been able to increase the numbers of individuals being evaluated for a trait and also the number of traits that have been able to be examined. Estimated Breeding Values, the product of this Statistical evaluation of the Phenotypic data in such a way as to isolate the Genetic Component of the trait, that is the portion of the expression of the trait solely dependent on the combination of the genes “identified”, have been valuable tools for Beef Seedstock producers. It must be remembered, EBV’s are ESTIMATED Breeding Values they have limitations with respect to assisting Beef Producers to improve the Genetic component of Productivity, Eating Quality and Price Competitiveness. There is no doubting the fact that the main reason for this is because of the “Biology” of the Bovine versus that of the major competitors- Chicken and Pork. Some of these issues include-
- Generation Interval
- Numbers in the same Generation
- Environmental Variation.
To name just a few and there are many Sub Factors within these main issues.
Statistical models have limitations regarding their ability to differentiate sufficiently between individuals within the population particularly where the measurement variation is compressed. This is evident in Northern Australia where the Environment (nutrition) results in there being very limited range in say 200 and 400 day weights so there is only minor deviation from the Mean and so it is difficult to assign a Genetic Component to the Trait because the Phenotypic variation is so small. Note the same applies to Carcase Traits such as Fatness.
Fat is an essential component of both the live animal and the Carcase yet it isn’t a trait best measured on a Linear Scale as the tissue is required at optimum rather than maximum/minimum levels. Fat is an expensive tissue to produce requiring two and a quarter times more Energy to produce than an equivalent mass of Bone or Muscle. It is therefore of paramount importance that the correct levels of fat are laid down on the live animal especially those destined for slaughter. Too much fat results in Beefs Competitive position at retail being eroded as too much has been costly to produce and excess must be trimmed at a cost.
It is interesting to look at data particularly Carcase data generated in the Angus Young Sire Benchmark Programme and look how the Phenotypic Data has been “converted” by the Statistically based models to produce an EBV that signals the individual’s Genetic Propensity to pass on the trait. Booroomooka Frankel is a worthy Case Study, B. Frankel was entered in Cohort 3 of the Angus Young Sire Benchmark Programme his 8 steer progeny measured 15.4mm for Rib Fat Rank 34/39 (leaner); 18.0mm for p8 Fat Rank 30/39. This performance plus that of his live Scan Data has been “computed” by the Model and produced fatness EBV’s that have had the Angus Seedstock Industry giving him a wide berth, because he, in their eyes is way too lean. The EBV’s are Rib -2.1 bottom 5% for Fatness, Rump -2.0 bottom 10% for Fatness. ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG SIGNAL
End Users (Processors Wholesalers Restauranteurs and Retailers) the people who sell beef and so generate the $$$$$’s to then distribute back down the “CHAIN” would be impressed with B. FRANKEL’s measured fats-they are optimal for the weight specification. B. Frankel may well have the ideal genetic configuration for Profitable levels of Fatness.
Should EBV’s have limitations re their ability to propel Genetic Measurement for Beef to the next level in an attempt to improve Productivity, Eating Quality and Price Competitiveness, then what should the replacement be?
Consider the following journey.
During the latter years of my secondary education , right through tertiary education until today I have grappled with the fact that given we have this GENE- The fundamental Unit of Inheritance, then why isn’t it possible to locate this GENE (Sets of Genes) responsible for laying down the ”Blueprint” for the expression of the Economically important Traits. Upon reflection this particular postulation doesn’t appear to be too far removed from that which may be possible. A quantum leap was made by the Molecular Biologists Watson and Crick in 1953 when they “unravelled’ the Story behind DNA 🧬. It may have seemed like an eternity from 1953 but by 2002 we had the Bovine Genome Map, a development that in combination with an understanding of DNA has enabled Molecular Biologists assign Markers for the combinations of GENES that influence the expression of the Economically important Traits.
Albeit at a rudimentary level it appears the base knowledge/tools existed in 2002 for Molecular Biologists to be able to follow a more “Absolute Pathway” than that of the “Statistical Model”. They could delve into the DNA, get to the base unit of Inheritance, rather than take sets of Phenotypic Data and massage them with sophisticated Modelling to assign a “Genetic Contribution” for a Trait.
No Doubting the fact that we were excited to learn in 2002 that Genetic Solutions had commenced seeking out Markers for the Marbling Genes. During those early days they definitely had a limited number of copies of the favourable genes for the one trait-Marbling. The fact that the Trait this organisation was evaluating was Marbling rather than IMF% was a Quantum Leap forward as Marbling is the trait that more accurately describes the Beef Consumers response to Eating Quality, it’s the Trait Beef Producers are paid for-see article on Dulverton website Marbling v IMF%.
We tested two sires D.Uptake U91 and JLB Exacto both had one copy of the favourable form of the GeneSTAR Marbling Gene, D. Uptake U91 had 16 progeny in the sale and Exacto 9. At long last it seemed the process of locating Markers that Identify the Sets of Genes that control the expression of the Economically important traits had begun. The journey continued we continued to work with Genetic Solutions, at our Bull Sale in 2004 we published the results for not only Marbling but also Tenderness. Note the top selling Bull in 2004 D. Xtra-Bounce X7 had two copies of both favourable genes so far evaluated for Tenderness, he was out of a D. Pixie Q12 daughter, Q12 was an imported Summitcrest embryo selected for eating quality. The pedigree also includes D. Re-Build R112 and Texas T15, both Sires exhibit Longevity there are lots of progeny sprinkled through many pedigrees in the Dulverton Herd.
Development continued and in 2005 we were able to test for two Marbling genes and two Tenderness genes, little fish are sweet progress was happening. In 2006 we were able to report on the progress of our Bull offering for 3 genes for Marbling and 4 genes for Tenderness it’s worth noting that both D. Texas T15 and D. Re-Build R112 were represented in the pedigrees of the Bulls carrying 6 and 7 copies of the Tenderness compliment
The level of excitement escalated because in 2007 Catapault had released a new suite of Markers there were then 4 genes for Marbling, 4 for Tenderness and 4 for a brand new trait in Feed Efficiency. Great! as early as 2007 two of the four Value Determining Traits in Eating Quality(Tenderness and Marbling) and Feed Efficiency were well and truly on the way to having their Genetic Expression being explained by the most accurate system possible-finding the Markers that identify the genes that control the expression of the Economically important Traits.
2008 was a consolidation year whereby we tested as many bulls as we could with pedigrees that had better performers from earlier test years. One of our better performers from the 2008 catalogue was D. Baxter B82, he had 2 of the 8 copies for the 4 marbling genes, 8 of the 8 copies for the 4 Tenderness genes and 6 copies of the 8 copies for the 4 Feed Efficiency genes. Note D. Baxter B82 had Rockn D Ambush and Texas T15 in his pedigree both prominent in X7’s pedigree.
2009 marked the introduction of a new era in DNA-Marker Technology. GeneSTAR MVP’s incorporated the 12 DNA Markers to date along with information from an additional 44 DNA Markers to form the new 56 DNA-Marker panel. To learn more of where Pfizer got to with the MVP’s(Molecular Value Prediction) please see page 23 of the 2009 Dulverton Angus Bull Sale Catalogue.
One of the better performing Bulls in the 2009 catalogue was D. CRACKER C222, he ranked in the top 10% of the Breed for Feed Efficiency, -0.48 Kg/day; the top 30% for Marbling, +0.20; the top 40% for Tenderness,-0.10 kgs of W-B Shear Force
Unfortunately 2010 marked the end of the era, started in 2002 by the Gallant Genetics Solutions Company dedicated to improving The Beef Industries ability to more accurately select for genetic improvement particularly amongst the Value Determining Traits-:
- Eating Qualit
- Feed Efficiency and as we focus more on Productivity and Price competitiveness,
- Maternal Stayability
- Saleable Retail Yield
Yeah it seemed the concept to Improve the Accuracy of Genetic Selection by moving from a Statistical base methodology to a Molecular Biological base whereby the Markers that located the SETS of Genes that control the expression of these VDT’s had been put to rest. Sure Pfizer maintained their Genomic interest unfortunately though they began using this 3rd Generation technology (Genomics) to “Enhance” (prop up) 2nd generation technology (Statistical Modelling BLUP IMF%).
I guess we drifted through the second Decade of the 21st Century with respect to our approach/commitment to following a Genomic Pathway re the evaluation for Genetic Merit of the Dulverton Herd. We didn’t waiver though from our selection of Sires with measured Carcase data for Marbling. We also supported the Young Angus Sire Benchmark Programme, progeny testing is oh so important re the validation of Genetic Merit evaluation System and measured Carcase Marbling was a Feature. Note Dulverton Jackpot J267 a B. Frankel son was ranked 2/41 in his Cohort for MSA Index and Carcase measured Marbling, perhaps we might be getting part the way there re one of the 4 VDT’s in Eating Quality.
During the decade in the Doldrums we also maintained an association with Wade Shafer and the progress these guys were making with IGS. IGS committed to three of our four VDT’s in Eating Quality (Carcase measured Marbling for now), the Super important On Farm Productivity determining Trait in Maternal Stayability-Longevity and Feed Efficiency.
In the latter half of 2019 IGS and Igenity formed a “working Relationship” that has the ability to fast track the Genomic evaluation of Genetic Merit for a suite of Economically important Traits including three of the four Dulverton VDT’s. Igenity have Markers for these traits so the contributions of both have produced a powerful genetic evaluation tool.
2020 arrives and as it is the year of “The VISIONARY” we have decided to sample with the Igenity/Neogen group, 60 of our Dynamic Dulverton Damsels, The Sale Group plus 7 of the Yearling bulls we used at Joining last Spring.
The results have been tabled and will be posted on the Dulverton website with an explanation of their “Meaning”. In the meantime I believe it is important to compare the Igenity/Neogen Data for the Marbling Trait against the Breedplan EBV’s for IMF%.
Note, the results Trend similarly-:
- The 3 “N’s” rank 1st in both system
- The 12 “Q’s” rank 2nd
- The 21 “P’s” rank 3rd
- The 15 Cows ranked 4th
Naturally averages and trends are one thing but from the Dulverton GO FORWARD Perspective the real issue is how each and every individual performs against the trait measure, mating “Like with Like” Individual with Individual to cement that trait is the Goal.
The important issue from the results re Marbling point to the fact that this set of females have significantly more Marbling than the Breedplan IMF% Data suggests they have.
We invite you to consider the Neogen Genomically enhanced data. Should you want a Dulverton Female with it’s accompanying data please inspect.
Genetic Measurement is essential for the Industry to progress we have a 3rd Generation Technology in that we can now identify Genetic Markers That locate the sets of Genes that control the Expression of the Economically important Traits particularly the Four Value Determining Traits.
LET’S DO IT!!