COMMERCIAL Angus producers are now able to boost genetic gain by identifying high indexing replacement females using objective measurement.
The Angus HeiferSELECT tool, a collaboration between Angus Australia and Zoetis, is available for heifers of 87.5 per cent black Angus content or greater that are by registered Angus bulls.
The test uses the latest technology in genomic selection to combine information from the DNA of individual heifers with pedigree information from their sire.
It can identify a female's sire and provide an overall breeding value based on eight traits – calving ease direct, 200-day growth, milk, mature cow weight, carcase weight, eye muscle area, rib fat and intramuscular fat. Heifers can then be ranked according to their overall breeding value, giving producers a helping hand when selecting their replacement females.
It's particularly helpful for traits that are difficult to measure, such as marbling, Zoetis genetics specialist Lachlan Ayoub said.
Angus HeiferSELECT has been available to Angus Australia's commercial members since late 2017, and currently has eight users, representing more than 4000 Angus heifers tested
“They range from operations with less than 50 head to a business with more than 1000 head,” Mr Ayoub said.
“They're targeting a range of markets, from domestic markets through to the long-fed markets.”
Producers are starting to see the benefits, particularly the largest operator.
“With the widespread culling going on because of drought conditions this particular customer is culling using objective information over three cohorts of females," Mr Ayoub said.
“They have to cull, and they're making those culling decisions more accurately than ever using objective measurement to assess the genetic merit of each heifer.”
Heifers can be tested at any age using a hair or tissue sample, with the results provided via Angus Australia's decision support software, available to members online.
The technology will help producers develop consistent lines of breeders.
“The decision support software is updated fortnightly with Angus Breedplan analysis, and customers have access to that information forever, so they're not paying to use that information once on a group of heifers. That data can be used every year to continually select the best heifers to retain.”
Sam White, Bald Blair, Guyra, NSW, was part of the pilot project, and has continued to use the technology in his commercial herd.
Mr White said the tool was useful in identifying the top performing bloodlines. Mr White tested 210 females.
“It can give you an idea of those animals that, for example, are going to be targeted at first-cross Angus/Wagyu breeding operations, so you can then identify the animals suited to that program, because they already have that marbling potential,” he said.
“Ninety five per cent of the heifers we've sold since were sire identified which is pretty attractive to the buyers. There are opportunities to create premiums based on individual sires, on top of the Angus premium.”