RESEARCHERS are honing-in on bulls that will breed fertile females as one way to double the rate of genetic gain in the commercial beef industry.
Project leader Professor Ben Hayes, from the University of Queensland, will explain how DNA sampling 30,000 cows and heifers could improve the bottom line of northern beef businesses when he speaks at the upcoming Livestock Breeding and Genetics Forum in Brisbane later this month. It’s just one area of game-changing research he will cover in his presentation.
Building genomic breeding value
Professor Hayes said the Northern Genomics Project could help fast-track genetic gain by delivering the genomic equivalent of an Estimated Breeding Value (EBV).
“Fertility is the main driver of productivity and profitability of northern beef producers, but weaning rates – an indication of fertility – can be as low as 40 percent in some herds,” he said.
Lifting the reproductive performance of breeding herds was challenging for producers who manage extensive enterprises, as handling animals only once or twice a year limited the opportunity to track reproductive performance at key points in time.
“In five years’ time, our aim is to have a highly accurate genomic breeding value for fertility, which producers can use when selecting bulls, to assess what animals will contribute genetically to their goal of higher weaning rates,” Prof Hayes said.
The project is commercially-focused and aims to develop DNA tests that are not limited to a specific breed. Collaborating producers are providing females of different breed compositions, including crossbred cattle, across Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Researchers are currently DNA sampling and scanning these females to record the key fertility traits which are age of puberty (heifers that cycle early can produce more calves in their lifetime) and postpartum anoestrus, to determine how easily a cow can fall pregnant again after her first calf.
The Northern Genomics Project is led by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and funded by the MLA Donor Company (with investment matched by the Australian Government) and the University of Queensland. The NLGC aims to deliver $400 million in industry improvements by doubling the rate of annual genetic gain in the commercial livestock industry value chain by 2022.
MLA’s free, one-day forum on 21 February is part of a stakeholder engagement initiative of the National Livestock Genetics Consortium.
The forum will be of interest to all stakeholders in the livestock industry, including commercial and seedstock producers, extension and service providers, lotfeeders, processors, brand owners and managers, supply chain participants and the scientific community.
Topics will include the latest genetics research and development investments, discussion about collaboration around livestock genetics adoption and gathering feedback on future investment priorities via an interactive workshop.
When: 8:30am to 5pm, 21 February
Where: Hall C, Royal International Convention Centre, 600 Gregory Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane (Ekka grounds)
Registration: The event is free, but registration is essential for catering. Click here to register