Fast-track genomics

During the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, genomics companies Igenity and Pfizer Animal Genetics provided updates on the growing list of DNA tests and services they offer to beef producers. The two companies compete aggressively in bovine genomic evaluation, which is good news for producers, as they each continue to add new services and enhance the accuracy of existing tests.

Kent Andersen, Ph.D., Pfizer Animal Genetics" associate director, technical services, says his company's tests for Angus cattle, using the High-Density 50K (HD 50K) chip, allow calculations of genomic-enhanced EPDs with a high degree of accuracy for young cattle. For ease of understanding, he compares the improvements in EPD accuracy with progeny testing. For their analysis, the company calculated EPDs for almost 500 Angus bulls, both before and after the addition of DNA information. Then, taking into account the heritability of each trait and the correlations computed by Angus Genetics, Inc. to enable GE-EPDs, they calculated respective improvements in accuracy values and expressed them in approximate progeny equivalents.

Depending on the trait, the average increase in accuracy for animals with initial EPDs based only on pedigree information was equal to the addition of seven to 20 progeny performance records. For example, the genomic-enhanced EPD and accuracy values for weaning weight are equal to the addition of weaning weights from approximately 16 progeny, while the improvement in accuracy for the Calving Ease Direct EPD was equivalent to 14 progeny.

"For females, these improvements in the dependability of EPDs equal more than a lifetime of progeny performance records, which enables years of more profitable mating decisions," Dr. Andersen says. "And for bulls this increase in accuracy can equal a significant portion of a first calf crop, leading to less risky and more dependable selection decisions."

Igenity, the genomics arm of Merial, recently expanded its profile on Angus cattle to include 21 traits, including dry matter intake, birth weight, mature height, mature weight, milk, scrotal circumference, weaning weight and yearling height. Igenity technical services director Kevin Dehaan, PhD, says the profile improves the accuracy of EPDs by the equivalent of data on 10 to 15 progeny.

DeHaan says that as genomic technology evolves, seedstock producers have become more able to apply the information toward breeding decisions and genetic goals, rather than for marketing alone. With bull-sale season approaching, he says demand for Igenity profiles has experienced strong growth.

For commercial cow-calf producers, Igenity promotes its genomic profile for replacement heifers. The test covers five traits – fertility, maternal calving ease, average daily gain, percent Choice and tenderness. The test costs $20 per head, and for another $3.25, producers can request a BVD-PI test on the same sample. The test, DeHaan says, helps producers reduce risk in their heifer-selection decisions by adding objective genomic ratings to existing selection criteria.

Producers who test their replacement heifers and use tested bulls or semen gain another benefit he says, with the potential to market feeder calves with known potential for performance and carcass merit. Cattle feeders, he points out, face extremely tight margins and place a value on information on feeder cattle that reduces their risk.

Read more at the Igenity Beef website.

Visit the Pfizer Animal Genetics website for more information.