WORK is underway to provide Angus producers with the ability to select for desirable coat types to add to the mix of other important production and marketing traits to meet their breeding objectives.
The development of coat type research breeding values has resulted from the analysis of coat scores for over 5000 animals as part of a partnership between Angus Australia and the University of New England at Armidale.
As northern Angus programs ramp up, coat type is becoming more pertinent as breeders look to offer genetics with the best adaptability in hotter, more tropical environments.
Coat type refers to an animal's hair length, fibre diameter and handle.
Angus Australia's breed development officer Matt Reynolds said while research was required to confirm the relationship between coat type and traits associated with the profitability and productivity of Angus animals in Australian production systems, anecdotally animals with shorter, sleeker coats were commonly considered to have better heat tolerance and tick resistance and a lower dag burden in feedlot environments.
RBVs were estimates still in development and data collection was a key part of bringing them to fruition but already the work done in this space would provide breeders with a starting point on coat type selection, he said.
RBVs have initially been published on the Angus Australia website for sires entered in the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program, now in its eleventh year.
Coat scores have been collected on both steers and heifers right back to the second cohort.
The coat type RBVs are expressed in score units. Lower CT RBVs indicate an animal is expected to produce progeny with a shorter, slicker coat. For example, a sire with a CT RBV of -0.30 would be expected to produce progeny that have, on average, 0.25 of a score shorter, slicker hair than a sire with a CT RBV of +0.20, all other things being equal.
"There is a lot of genetic variation within the Angus breed and that presents excellent opportunity for improvement," Mr Reynolds said.
"In northern programs, the potential improvements could be significant."
Coat type is not the only RBV in the pipeline, with body condition score and hip height also under development.
"It's about trying to collect data and seeing if we can produce a usable breeding value as the benefits of being able to better define the female part of a cattle breeding program are enormous," Mr Reynolds said.
Breeders now have the opportunity to contribute data on their animals to the coat type RBVs
Coat scores are collected using a one to seven system, with one indicating a sleek coat and seven indicating a very hairy coat.
Due to the impact of seasonal conditions on the coat of an animal, it is important that animals are scored during late spring/early summer when some animals have shed their winter coat, while others have not. The animals will need to be between 300 and 750 days of age at the time of measurement.
Measurements can also be repeated during autumn if producers wish to collect a score that is independent of coat shedding, before animals have started growing their winter coat.
The future of coat type RBVs was now about getting more data in there, then it would be a matter of getting the breeding values into the world to assess their value to breeders, Mr Reynolds said.