Performance recording options for breeders of composite and crossbred bulls

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Before choosing a recording option

When considering recording options, it is important first to decide which traits (characteristics) will be recorded, both for selection purposes within the stud and for describing sale bulls for clients. (The emphasis to be placed on growth, fertility, carcase and other traits within your selection program is a different issue.) The type of recording scheme required can then be determined. The following information concentrates on the actual recording options.

Recording options

There are currently two main ways of obtaining BREEDPLAN estimated breeding values (EBVs):

1. Enrol directly with BREEDPLAN

Any breed/breeder can submit data directly to NBRS BREEDPLAN (National Beef Recording Scheme). EBVs will be set against that herd’s base. This may be the best option if the following apply:

  • The composite herd is stabilised, that is, it has become a new ‘breed’, and the owners wish to record only this ‘final herd’ (rather than enter historical data back to original breeds).
  • Pedigree links to a major breed are tenuous.
  • Recording fees are an issue. (Breed societies may charge the NBRS fee, plus variable costs. In turn they can provide extra services and support in some cases.)

Notes:

  • If a herd is enrolled with NBRS, with full breed codes and historic pedigree data, it could later be transferred to the database of a linked breed. Some charge for the data transfer would apply.
  • The EBV base for a composite herd on NBRS will not be zero. Rather, a herd base that is more reflective of current industry standards will be used. This does not mean that the EBVs would be directly comparable to any other EBVs outside the herd — it simply means that the EBVs will be in a similar range of numbers to other industry EBVs.
  • If a number of composite herds are required to be analysed together and have good genetic links between them, then these herds can be part of a cooperative recording scheme, and a genetic analysis can be run across all the herds to potentially obtain comparable EBVs.

2. Record data with a breed society

Several breed societies in GROUP BREEDPLAN now offer options to record composite/crossbred data in their commercial/appendix/Multibreed registers. This offers the potential to have EBVs reported against the breed society’s EBV base. The breed society option would be most attractive if:

  • there are good genetic links to the preferred breed;
  • using that breed’s base would offer analytical and/or marketing advantages;
  • there are perceived benefits in being part of the breed society’s technical and marketing support, either through consultations or simply being part of the society’s activities.

Note that once data is entered with a breed society, it becomes an integral part of their database and is therefore their property. Most societies have agreements with members which allows the members to obtain a copy of the data they submitted if they so desire. If you are concerned about this, check with your breed society regarding access to submitted data, and any costs that may be involved in obtaining a data extract at a later stage. However, once data is included in the GROUP analyses, the breed societies would naturally not want to ‘remove’ data from them, as this may cause EBV changes to breed society animals. (See Agnote DAI-144 BREEDPLAN and the bull buyer for information on GROUP BREEDPLAN.)

In future, some breeds may progressively move to a common Multibreed base where they will report their EBVs. This would effectively mean that a similar EBV value would indicate similar genetic merit irrespective of which breed reported the animal. This may eventually make it more important for composites/crossbreeds to be genetically linked to one of these breeds if possible. (Further information on this issue is available in Agnote DAI-301 Multibreed EBVs.)

Conclusion

Whatever recording option is used, there is no substitute for good pedigree and performance data, careful recording of management groups, and recording of traits that will support the breeding goals of studs and their commercial clients. There are also no ‘free rides’ — if you need information on a trait to help with selection decisions, you will need to record data on that trait. Relying on correlated information generally gives lower accuracy and a poorer progress towards the breeding objective. It is therefore recommended that bull breeders spend some time considering their breeding objectives prior to making decisions on which traits to record and which recording option to select.

Further information

See other Agnotes in this series for further information on BREEDPLAN and EBVs.

About the authors

Brian Sundstrom is Cattle Breeding Coordinator with NSW Agriculture. Part of this role involves technical specialist and advisory work with BREEDPLAN from an office at the Agricultural Business Research Institute, University of New England, Armidale (phone (02) 6773 3555, email breedplan@abri.une.edu.au). His other role is with the Beef CRC group.

Jack Allen is Technical Director, BREEDPLAN, at the Agricultural Business Research Institute, University of New England, Armidale.