PROGENY TEST PROVIDES REAL OPPORTUNITIES
By Dr. Robert Banks, MLA Head of Research, Southern Australia & Dr Hans Graser Director, AGBU.
The Charolais Society has recently taken a very major step in partnership with the MLA Donor Company – to establish a Charolais Beef Information Nucleus project – also known to members as the Integrated Progeny Test programs.
This major investment will generate some very real opportunities for all Charolais breeders, and some real challenges for the whole breed.
In very simple terms, the project will progeny test a wide range of genetically superior young bulls, including recording a significant number of traits that are currently not widely recorded within the breed, including aspects of carcase composition and traits associated with consumer eating quality.
The information collected on the progeny of the bulls in the test will contribute both to more accurate EBVs for the bulls themselves, but will also update the EBVs of their close relatives such as half-sib brothers and sisters and improve genetic linkage between herds, which also helps the accuracy of all EBVs. Through this process, breeders will be able to assess with more confidence a wider range of animals, especially for these hard-to-measure traits.
The project data will also provide the basis for calibrating DNA marker tests for their usefulness in Australian Charolais. It is becoming increasingly obvious from R&D that this calibration step needs to be done for each breed and production system, and it can only be done with substantial volumes of good performance recording data. Without this calibration, no-one can be confident in what a test will actually tell you.
So, this project will better-place the Charolais breed to implement DNA technology, and, as DNA results are integrated into EBVs, Charolais breeders will have the potential ability to make accurate selection in young animals for hard-to-measure traits.
AGBU is now working with Charolais to set up the 2nd and 3rd intakes of young sires for the project, focussed on getting as broad a range of bloodlines with animals as high on genetic merit as possible. This is all important because there is no point wasting the investment on animals that are not likely to make a major contribution to the future of the breed, and for calibration of the DNA tests, the animals must represent the current genetic makeup of the breed. That’s the basic outline of the project – where is it up to, but what are the challenges and opportunities?
Charolais breeders now have the opportunity to really drive genetic progress in the breed – not just by using the best of the test bulls via AI, but also by pushing the rate of genetic gain within their own herds–- the best young genetics are the future of your breed, and you will only get that future if you evaluate the best, genetically superior young bulls in stud herds.
There is tremendous opportunity to use the project to focus industry awareness on what Charolais genetics can do for producers and processors, and not just in growth rate and yield. The Society needs to consider as many opportunities for exposure for producers, processors and retailers as possible: the test herds will have some of the best Charolais genetics in the world on display – and the breed needs to make the most of it.
This project is a major commitment for the breed and for MLA – and it can help build the future for Charolais in Australia. MLA and AGBU are very keen to make sure the project is a resounding success, but we can only do that with your commitment and participation.