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Friday General Session

Enhancing EPDs through Genomics

“The beef seedstock business is entering a new era of animal evaluation. Breakthroughs in genomics technology now offer the potential to increase the accuracy of existing EPDs (expected progeny differences) as well as select for traits not previously evaluated,” said U.S. Beef Breeds Council representative Kent Andersen at the 2009 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) symposium May 1 in Sacramento, Calif.

Kent Andersen

Kent Andersen,
U.S. Beef Breeds Council Representative

Genome analysis has already yielded sizable panels of markers and led to the development of molecular breeding values (MBVs). Andersen said that for this information to most effectively influence seedstock selection decisions, it should be integrated into existing breed association performance programs. This would require new business infrastructure to integrate the activities of breeders, breed associations, genomics companies and genetic evaluation service providers. He said it is a worthwhile undertaking because substantial ambiguity and confusion could result if traits were instead evaluated separately by both traditional EPDs and by MBVs from multiple service providers.

“Integrating MBVs into existing EPDs would eliminate ambiguity, enhance accuracy and reduce the possible change, or error, associated with the predictions,” Andersen said.

As an example, consider a weaning weight (WW) EPD with an accuracy of 0.20 yielding a possible change of ±12 pounds (lb.). If MBV information were integrated into that EPD, improving the accuracy from 0.20 to 0.60, the magnitude of possible change would be reduced by half. The possible change would then be just ±6 lb.

“With increased accuracy there is significantly more value in the information because there is less risk,” Andersen said, noting that bulls with this enhanced data would likely be perceived as more valuable, too.

Genomics technology may also be applied to those economically relevant traits (ERTs) that do not lend themselves to traditional EPD evaluation due to the time or expense needed to measure them, he said. This could include traits such as feed utilization, animal health, the healthfulness of beef products, palatability and adaptability to environmental stress.

Ultimately, Andersen said breeders’ abilities to realize value from MBVs depends on the degree to which breed associations, genomics companies and genetic evaluation providers effectively collaborate.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). To request reprint rights contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

The 41st BIF Research Symposium and Annual Meeting was hosted by the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the California Cattlemen's Association. For more information, visit www.bifconference.com or www.calcattlemen.org/bif2009.html.


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