Management Topics

Feb 15, 2013

Simmental, Red Angus and Gelbvieh break new ground with multibreed genetic evaluation

The idea of breeds running a single acrossbreed evaluation, with all the breeds being on the same base so the expected progeny differences (EPDs) are directly comparable, has long been a dream for many of us in the industry. Now the Simmental, Red Angus, Canadian Angus (reds), and Gelbvieh associations are running a multibreed genetic evaluation together (MBGE), and releasing their EPDs on the same base and scale.

This means the EPDs are directly comparable between the participating breeds without any conversion factors, making selection decisions by commercial producers using these breeds and their hybrids easy in a crossbreeding system. The average of the different breeds can be found in table 1.

In addition to the above breeds, Maine-Anjou and Chianina also are participating in the MBGE, but they are releasing their EPDs on their traditional base. Data from Canadian Angus’ black cattle are also in the MBGE, but their EPDs are not released because the Canadian Angus Association gets their black Angus EPDs from Angus Genetics, Inc. This makes for a huge data base that is comparable to American Angus’ data base.

According to Dr. Jerry Lipsey, CEO of the American Simmental Association where the MBGE is done, “Data is knowledge and knowledge is power and opportunity. With the addition of American and Canadian Gelbvieh to our Red Angus of America, Canadian Angus (both red and black), Maine, Chi and American Simmental Database, we are now adding new animal information at record speed. Who would guess that by 2013, we could increase our database by nearly one-half million new animals per year?” Not only does the MBGE have quantity, but it is also as technically advanced as any in the industry, including the incorporation of genomics for both purebreds and hybrids into the analysis. In fact, Simmental was the first to produce a genomic marker assisted EPD when they released their tenderness EPD.

What is next to improve the MBGE? According to Larry Keenan, breed improvement specialist for Red Angus Association of America (RAAA), “The RAAA Technical Committee continues to study calving ease direct and calving ease maternal EPDs calculated on the multi-breed model (currently Red Angus’ are breed specific), and we anticipate a decision on the acceptance of those EPDs to be made by the summer of 2013 MBGE. Moving forward, we will endeavor to transition all EPDs to the multi-breed model, with Stayability and Heifer Pregnancy first in line.” Also, Dr. Wade Shafer, chief operating officer of American Simmental Association, is currently working on more frequent EPD analysis than the traditional twice a year national cattle evaluation practiced by most breed associations.

Over 20 years ago, Dr. Jim Gibb, executive director of the American Gelbvieh Association, organized a meeting to explore ways for breeds to work together, and attempts have been made many times since by various groups of breeds. Finally with this MBGE displaying EPDs on the same base and scale, the fruition of these many efforts is finally starting to come to pass. It is an exciting time in our industry! — Dr. Bob Hough

[Dr. Bob Hough has served as the executive vice president of the Red Angus Association of American and more recently as executive vice president of the North American Limousin Foundation from 2009 to early 2011. He is now a consultant, freelance writer and semi-retired.]