Breedplan Explained

Breedplan is a modern genetic evaluation programme for beef cattle breeders. It compares cattle on the basis of their breeding values.

The New Zealand Hereford Association is involved in an International Genetic Evaluation – Group Breedplan Programme. The Australian Hereford Society, the Australian Polled Hereford Society and the New Zealand Hereford Society (in which horned and polled breeds are combined), combine their databases to produce an Australisian (Trans-Tasman) Genetic Evaluation for white faced cattle.

This has a number of advantages:

- A larger database of performance records leads to more accurate estimations of EBV's.

- All breeders in these three societies have their cattle ranked in a comparable way.

- Marketing of breedplan cattle is enhanced as all are evaluated on the same standard.

The service is run by the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) at the University of New England, Armidale, NSW., Australia. Breedplan research and development is carried out by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), also at the University of New England.

Breedplan is all about increasing accuracy of selection decisions, and when properly understood and used, can be a significant aid to a cattleman's decision making when selecting stock and can be used to estimate the relative performance of an animal or its progeny compared to the herd or breed benchmark.

Note: Breedplan is the same technology that has been used by the pig, poultry and dairy industries to make such dramatic production changes over the last decade or so. It has worked wonderfully well for those industries, and works just as well for the genetic evaluation of beef cattle.

 

An Overview of Breedplan

What you see in an animal is the result of both the genes they inherit from their parents and non-genetic effects such as feeding and parasite control, sex, age of dam etc.

To improve your herd by selection, you need to evaluate the genetic merit of cattle - that is the proportion of the animals performance which is controlled by its genetics, and not its overall performance which has been influenced by environmental and other non-genetic effects.

The final evaluation of how an animal will breed (its true breeding value) is never achieved until long after the animal is dead. Fortunately, its estimated breeding value (EBV) can be calculated by using analysing performance information, from both the animal itself as well as from its progeny and close relatives, and adjusting for known heritability factors and non-genetic effects.

AN ESTIMATED BREEDING VALUE IS THE ESTIMATED GENETIC MERIT OF AN ANIMAL FOR EACH RECORDED PRODUCTION TRAIT. EBV’s reflect the difference that can be expected in an animal’s performance relative to the breed baseline of zero for each trait. On average, half of this difference will be passed on to the animal’s progeny.

Breedplan represents a major improvement over the more traditional methods of performance recording. It uses all the records available on the animal and its relatives to disentangle genetic and environmental factors, giving the best estimate of the animals breeding value that is possible from the available information.

To allow comparison of animals from between management groups or even different properties genetic links between contemporary groups are essential. A genetic link is achieved when animals in one group/herd have a parent in common with an animal in another group/herd. For sires, this cross linkage is usually achieved through AI but could also be through common dams.

Breedplan uses "multiple trait" evaluation which further increases the accuracy of the EBVs. There is usually an association between two different traits; this may be positive or negative and vary from weak to strong. For example, 200 day weight has a positive association with 400 day weight - that is, as 200 day weight increases so does 400 day weight. These associations between traits are taken into account when carrying out the evaluation and are particularly beneficial when animals have a limited number of relatives with performance records.

The multiple trait analysis also helps to reduce the "bias" which can be introduced by a previous selection decision, for example selective joining or dis-proportional culling. For example, selection of heavier calves at weaning is expected to lead to higher than average 400 day weights. The fact that the remaining animals are expected to be heavier as a result of previous culling is accounted for in Breedplan as long as the records on which the earlier selection was based are included in the evaluation.

The EBVs, expressed in the same units as they were measured (eg, kg) and are calculated relative to the breed benchmark of zero, which was established some 20 years ago when the first performance information was recorded.

 

What does Breedplan do?

Breedplan adjusts "raw" field observations submitted by the breeder to calculate an estimate of the animals breeding value (EBV). It uses information from the performance of the individual animals as well as its relatives, and allows for differences in environment and chance that animals have been exposed to and that would otherwise bias our selection decisions.

It provides the best estimate of an animals breeding value from the information available.

EBVs are more accurate than conventional indices of cattle performance, such as ratios, which is why their use in selection allows genetic progress to be greatly accelerated.

Breedplan is a useful aid to selection, not because you are a poor judge of cattle but because when it comes to making simultaneous adjustments for known environmental effects over a number of traits, human brainpower is no match for a computer.

 

Why use Breedplan to analyse performance records?

What we see or measure in an animal is influenced by two factors, environmental factors and genetic factors. Environmental factors influence the way an animal may look or perform but not the way his progeny will look or perform. Environmental influences include nutrition (differences between paddocks or properties, supplementary feeding, or trace mineral capsules), management such as castration and drenching, grooming and clipping, gut-fill, ill health, and parasites.

Observed differences of performance between animals resulting from environment can be large, but are not inherited by their progeny, and as such can lead our selection decision astray. Genetic factors are the result of genes inherited from the parents and are the blueprint for future performance, both of the individual and its progeny.

You buy a bull not for what he looks like but how his progeny will perform. It is only when environment factors are either standardised or adjusted for that real genetic differences become apparent. Breedplan uses sophisticated computing technology to adjust for known environmental effects over a number of selection traits. 

Across Country Selection Indexes

The BreedObject website (www.breedobject.com) has been modified to enable New Zealand Hereford Selection Indexes to be calculated on Australian animals and vice versa. Previously, only New Zealand Selection Indexes were available on New Zealand animals and Australian Selection Indexes on Australian animals.


There are two major advantages of this enhancement. Firstly, New Zealand Hereford breeders can now access New Zealand Hereford Selection Indexes on any Australian animals that they may be interested in, while secondly, New Zealand breeders can now provide the Australian Selection Indexes for their animals to interested Australian clients.
There are several different methods available to calculate across country Selection Indexes for your animals. The first step involves selecting the animals you are interested in.

- For published sires or animals listed in either a sale or semen catalogue, you need to log on to the BreedObject website (www.breedobject.com). Once you have logged on you will then need to click on the link to either the relevant “Published Sire” List or the relevant sale/semen catalogue. Note – for sale & semen catalogues you first need to click on the link in the middle of the BreedObject homepage which provides a summary of how many sale/semen catalogues are available.

- For an individual animal or a specific group of animals, you need to log on to the EBV enquiry system for the relevant Breed Society. The EBV enquiry system for all Hereford Breed Societies worldwide can be accessed by clicking on the “Search Facilities” link on the BREEDPLAN website (http://breedplan.une.edu.au). From within the EBV enquiry system, you need to enter the search criteria to select the individual animal or group of animals you are interested in. After clicking on “Search”, you will be presented with a table listing the animals you have selected. You then need to click on the link immediately below the table titled “Link to BreedObject with these animals”. This will transfer the information to the BreedObject website. For further assistance in using the EBV enquiry facility, please contact staff at PBB.

Once you have selected the animals you are interested in, calculating the across country Selection Indexes is a relatively easy process. The second step is to choose the index that you wish to calculate. To do this, click on the “Choose Index” button at the top of the page.

A list of the selection indexes that can potentially be calculated for the animals you have selected is then displayed. This screen may look similar the following.

On this screen, select the Selection Indexes that you are interested in by clicking on the tick boxes to select/unselect each Selection Index (A). For example, if you wish to calculate New Zealand Indexes for a group of selected Australian animals, tick the box next to the New Zealand Indexes of interest. If you are unfamiliar with a particular index, the relative emphasis that has been put on each EBV within that index can be accessed by clicking on the “View Chart” button (C).
Once you have selected the Selection Indexes you require, simply click on the button at the bottom of the screen and the relevant Selection Indexes will be calculated for the animals that you selected previously (B).

Important Note – Selection Indexes are still only directly comparable between animals whose EBVs have been calculated within the same genetic evaluation. For example, a Trans Tasman GROUP analysis. Therefore, the NZ Indexes that you may calculate only allow you to directly rank Australian or New Zealand Hereford animals

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