Weekly genetics report: North versus South in Breedplan usage

Genetics editor Geoff Phillips 13/09/2016

Annual sale day at Palgrove Charolais


WHILE Breedplan is a compelling science used by many to produce better seedstock, there is a clear divide evident in uptake between breeds in northern and southern parts of the continent.

Breedplan adoption is much more widespread in the British and European seedstock herds that predominate in southern Australia, than it is in the bos Indicus influenced breeds that dominate northern Australia.

Objective measurement is well accepted in Angus, where 95 percent of the calves registered are Breedplan-recorded. So entrenched is the system that there is little point becoming a bull breeder/seller unless the calves are registered, performance-recorded and carry Estimated Breeding Values.

The evidence is there to support that theory. Last year 8103 Angus bulls sold across Australia averaged $6023 at auction. With the 2016 Angus sales all but complete, estimates are that about the same number will average more than $7000 this year.  Close to 100pc of the Angus bulls that sell at auction carry EBVs.

Two weeks ago Millah Murrah Angus endorsed the Breedplan argument by averaging $16,300 for 109 EBV-carrying bulls with the sale topper at $85,000 in the top 1pc of the breed for several traits.

Then this week, the 158 bulls sold at David and Prue Bondfields‘ Palgrove Charolais and Ultrablack sale averaged $10,848, with all the bulls on Breedplan including the Ultrablacks (an Angus-Brangus composite with no more than 25pc bos Indicus) that generate EBVs through the Angus Society’s Multi Breed Register (MBR).

“A big percentage of our bull buyers look for Breedplan figures,” says David Bondfield, who sells 250 to 300 bulls a year at auction and another 500 to 600 out of the paddock.

The Palgrove Ultrablacks and Charolais were neck-and-neck in averages last year. This year the 44 Ultra Blacks averaged $11,330 and the 114 Charolais, $10,662.

Ross Thompson of Millah Murrah and David Bondfield, two of the sharpest operators in the seedstock business these days, are both quick to point out that Breedplan is an aid to selection while fertility, growth and weight and carcase merit along with structural soundness and common sense are all part of that almost magical mix that produces efficiency and profit.

But hang on, what about the Yarrawonga-Waco Santa Gertrudis sale at Wullumbilla in southern Queensland last week, where 157 bulls averaged $11,443, up more than $1000 on last year’s average. Bulls sold to $75,000 and five topped the $40,000 mark. This was the 57th sale for the Bassingthwaighte family. The studs are now run by brothers Andrew and David and their families.

Step back a month and the brothers had a team of 35 magnificent cherry reds at the Brisbane Ekka taking out the junior bull and female championships as well as the senior and grand champion female award.

In addition they took out championships in Brisbane’s commercial steer and carcase competitions.

And all this stud and commercial success, with not a Breedplan figure in sight.

The $75,000 sale topper strode into the ring carrying a second placed ribbon from Brisbane, a smart pedigree, natural polledness, and real-time measurements (23 mths old; 928kg; 1.26 DWG; 39cm scrotal circumference; 136 sq cm EMA). He is now looking at a new home at Michael Thompson’s Mundah Reds stud in Western Australia.

“Don’t believe in it,” was Andrew Bassingthwaighte’s response to Beef Central’s question about Breedplan.

Yarrawonga-Waco is Australia’s largest Santa Gertrudis sale and will get even bigger according to the owners. Next year the sale will offer 200 bulls, Mr Bassingthwaighte predicts, to “get the average down for clients.”

Last year the sale had strong stud support. This year commercial buyers dominated, paying in the $5000-$6000 range while last year they were paying $3000-$4000.

Next week:

We talk to industry veteran Paul Williams who heads up Tropical Beef Technology Services (SBTS) providing technical services to members of participating breed societies, and also Andrew Byrne, the Angus Australia’s Breed development & Extension Manager and others about the effect of Breedplan in the beef populations they service.


Yearling bulls average $8180

In what could be the best-ever average for an entire catalogue of a decent number of true yearling bulls, 75 yearlings sold in a 100pc clearance at the Steele family’s Ben Nevis Angus sale in central New South Wales last week for an average $8180 and a top of $26,000. What would be the cost of keeping these bulls around to sell in 12 months time? That’s a topic to be explored in a future column.

Another sale of note last week was Central Queensland Brangus where 94 out of 94 bulls sold to a top of $34,000 to average $8723.





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  1. Philip Downie, 16/09/2016

    Surprisingly people bred good bulls before breedplan just because you don’t use breedplan doesn’t mean you can’t breed good bulls. Just because you use breedplan doesn’t mean you only breed good bulls. Not everyone is big enough or has the data to use breedplan and to try to say people not using it are hiding something is disgraceful. I’ve seen a lot of sale bulls that would be average steers but good breedplan figures.

  2. Daryl Jenkins, 14/09/2016

    I believe that those breeders who do not use breed plan are trying to hide the deficiencies. in their herd. Breed plan is the best tool available for a breeder to gauge the genetic changes that are occurring in the herd over the years.
    Breed plan is a tool and like all tools the value depends on the users skill. After all,an axe is a tool. In the wrong hands the user could cut their foot off. Breed plan is no different. It is only a tool that will only benefit the user if used properly

  3. charles nason, 14/09/2016

    Some very thoughtful comments but no one has mentioned the low accuracy of EBV’s at sales which detracts from its usefulness especially if you are only buying one bull
    And when you come to birth weight , environmental factors play the dominant role
    How many record twins or even know the surviving calf was a twin?
    The plant breeders now use a G*M*E model which incorporates the interaction of genetics , environmental factors and the management thereof
    This is where EBV’s cause so much polarisation in the discussion as genetics is only one arm of the trilemna

  4. Philip Downie, 14/09/2016

    I have looked at a limited set of EBVs and real figures from a single stud and no where near accurate enough, you could pay good money for high EBV trait and get below breed average. One of the main issues is lack of numbers do all the progeny go in? I very much doubt that and I also suspect it is the failures that miss out. So the figures have every chance of being skewed. As far as I am concerned breeders with on property sales should have both EBV and real scan figures that would prove things once and for all.

  5. Wayne Upton, 14/09/2016

    Having been involved in BREEDPLAN since its inception I am starting to think that those that don’t use the figures are trying to establish a marketing point of difference because they can’t breed bulls with good figures! They either can’t understand the system or don’t want to. I think we may be wasting time and money trying to convince more people to use BREEDPLAN – those that use it well are producing genetically superior bulls for their clients. The system works if you are willing to learn how it to use it. For example the Zietsman quote above is of course 100% correct but fails to recognize that despite all of the environmental effects listed female fertility is still heritable and you can make genetic improvement by selecting on fertility EBVs.

  6. Kerry Glasser, 14/09/2016

    Sadly until there is independent auditing Breedplan (although we all still do it in hope) will be not as scientific as we would like or most people think. Genuine seedstock cattlemen who get around know this but because it is only system we have and so call academics keep pushing it down everyones throat and Breedplan are unwilling or unable to change we will keep getting the same results.
    The figures are wildly inaccurate (for many reasons) and very obvious ,particularly when cattle come together at different events or sales.
    A couple of reasons for inaccuracies are,
    Because it is used as a marketing tool it is too tempting for people to enter
    false weights, hence the need to do auditing (weighing) by independents.
    Cattle Genetics are are not an exact science. Just look at a mob of embryo calves ,often they can be completely different in looks and performance from same parentage.
    And others.
    That’s my beef for the day but having been involved from the beginning and a big supporter I’m increasingly disturbed by peoples perception of Breedplan’s Performance (from what they are told) compared to the reality. The other great bone of contention is the enormous fee Breedplan charges Breed Societies for this info. In my breeds case it is 50% of our registration fees and the Society does all the data entries for Breedplan.
    The other piece of info that I have learned from the Husband of one of the ladies involved in formulating Breedplan was that she admitted to her husband before she died that it (Breedplan) wasn’t working as well as she hoped.
    I wish it did work!

  7. Paul D. Butler, 13/09/2016


    “It is dishonest to suggest, or imply that BLUP (EPD) analysis will allow accurate genetic comparisons of all economically important traits across all environments. A trait such as fertility is determined by hormonal balance (largely unaffected by environment) and body condition (largely a reflection of environmental adaptation). It is therefore subjected to genotype X environment interaction. Animals performing well in one environment may perform poorly in a different environment. This is reflected in fertility. No mathematical model can correct for this in order to allow animals be compared across environments in regard to traits that are subjected to genotype X environment interaction.”

    Johann Zietsman

    From MAN, CATTLE and VELD: A Ranching Revolution

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