Time is running out for Australian Angus breeders to provide input into the breeding direction of the Angus breed by completing an online survey, facilitated by CSIRO, aiming to determine current industry preferences for different traits within Angus breeding programs.
This survey closes on March 31, therefore those wanting to contribute to the findings must ensure that they complete the survey as soon as possible.
Angus Australia’s Breed Development and Extension Manager Andrew Byrne said the online survey was a critical part of a project being conducted to review the selection indexes that are calculated within the Angus BREEDPLAN genetic evaluation.
“Survey outcomes will help to shape the future selection indexes that are calculated for Australian Angus animals,” Mr Byrne said.
The online survey aims to determine industry preferences for not only traditional production traits, like calving ease, fertility, growth rate and carcase quality, but also traits that are not considered in the selection indexes, such as structural soundness and temperament, and newer, more novel traits like immune competence, and the acceptable trade-offs between these groups of traits.
Research Project Officer at CSIRO Amy Bell said traditionally the focus of breeding programs has been on production and reproduction traits, however other traits are starting to be considered to maintain a healthy, sustainable and productive herd.
One example of this is immune competence, which has only recently been developed as a measurable trait. Immune competence describes an animal’s ability to mount an immune response to a disease challenge, with animals with high levels of immune competence having a strong immune response, which is favourable.
“It has been demonstrated in Australian Angus cattle that immune competence has potentially large benefits for improved herd health and reduced health treatment costs during feedlot finishing,” explained Mrs Bell.
The survey is seeking input from all Angus breeders and producers across Australia to find out how they value different traditional and novel traits within their breeding program.
This information will help to better understand how the value placed on each trait differs between different operations, climatic regions or target markets, and will enable the tailoring of selection indexes that best meet the needs of industry.
Four selection indexes are currently calculated within Angus BREEDPLAN, being the Angus Breeding Index, Domestic Index, Heavy Grain Index and Heavy Grass Index. The Angus Breeding Index is a general purpose selection index that is suitable for use in the majority of commercial beef operations, whereas the Domestic, Heavy Grain and Heavy Grass selection indexes are specific to beef operations targeting a defined production system and market endpoint.