CUTTING edge development of the Angus breed at the moment is attempting to make sense of feed conversion efficiency.
Andrew Byrne, Angus Australia’s Breed Development and Extension Manager, says the Angus breed is well positioned with two net feed intake estimated breeding values (EBVs) being produced for Angus animals that highlight genetic differences in their abilities to convert less feed to more weight gain.
One EBV looks at differences in feed efficiency post weaning, or the growing phase of young cattle.
The other concentrates on the feedlot finishing phase.
“We are looking for animals with the same performance but which require lower feed intake which, of course, equals more profit,” he says.
“There is also a lot of research underway designed to assess feed conversion efficiency on grass and in the feedlot,” he says.
One such program is the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program.
Undertaken by Angus Australia, the program is being funded in part through the MLA’s donor company program.
Currently 45 bulls are joined each year through a fixed AI program to 60 cows and generates comprehensive performance of their progeny from birth to slaughter.
To measure feed efficiency, progeny at 450kg are sent to the University of New England’s Tullimba research feedlot where they are closely monitored for 70 days.
As a result even in the program’s early days, research is starting to identify sires within the Angus breed that show better feed conversion efficiency.
“We are also hoping to develop genomic tests that enable us to routinely identify this trait,” said Mr Byrne.
“In five years’ time we would hope to take a DNA sample from an Angus animal and from that be able to identify animals with superior feed efficiency.”
Mr Byrne said project researchers would continue to incorporate feed efficiency EBVs into selection indexes.
“We are interested in identifying Angus genetics that improve profitability all along the supply chain – from fertility and calving ease to growth rates and carcase attributes.”
Working with the program are the likes of Mullah Murrah Angus stud, with stud principal Ross Thompson a member of the project’s steering committee.
Also investigating feed conversion efficiency is Te Mania Angus stud, which currently has 128 rising two year old bulls in feedlot trials.
After the trial these animals will be offered for sale at Walgett, August 9.
Holy grail of genetic potential?
MILLAH Murrah Angus has taken part in the sire benchmarking program from the outset, with stud principal Ross Thompson a member of the program’s steering committee.
“The program has reached a state of useful maturity,” he said, noting that nominations were now being called for a seventh annual trial.
Mr Thompson said traits such as feed conversion efficiency were very hard to measure without a structured progeny test.
“That’s one great positives of the sire benchmarking program,” he said.
“Additionally, information gleaned from things like the actual carcase measurements of a sire’s progeny, allow us to make comparisons with EBV predictions.
“This is giving us a good understanding of how reliable the breed plan model is as an indicator of genetic potential,” he said.
“From the outset, we wondered if this program might uncover bulls that were the ‘Holy Grail’ of genetic potential. This hasn’t really been the case.
“Obviously, with so many traits being observed, no one bull has proven to be near the top for all of them. But certainly a variety of sires from each cohort is delivering breed leading performance across the range of traits.”