By Bill Pendergrass
This month marks a milestone. In the month of May Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU), Beefmaster Educational Endowment Foundation (B.E.E.F.) and the entire Beefmaster breed will achieve one of the most significant milestones in the annals of this great breed…the first-ever Beefmaster Genomic-Enhanced Expected Progeny Differences (GE-EPDs).
B.E.E.F. and its leadership is to be commended for their vision, dedication and tenacity for taking on this project several years ago and seeing it to fruition. Were it not for the foresightedness of B.E.E.F.’s leadership and the generosity of breeders who have donated to B.E.E.F. and its research efforts, the Beefmaster breed would have fallen way behind our competition in the genomics arena. To refresh your memory, one of B.E.E.F.’s primary stated goals is the implementation of GE-EPDs for the benefit of the Beefmaster breed.
BBU began asking breeders to HD Genotype animals in June 2015. What began as a slow measured drumbeat of interest from a small group of breeders has blossomed into a very impressive display of the Beefmaster breeds’ most dominant animals being represented in our GE-EPD database. The accuracy of Beefmaster genetic selection tools is about to increase dramatically.
Right about now, many BBU members are asking “what is a GE-EPD and why should I care”? A Genomic-Enhanced EPD is the product of including detailed, DNA information (collected from the HD Genotypes) that greatly improve the accuracy of an animal’s EPDs. This is very important in the case of young, non-parent animals.
A great example of this is yearling and coming two-year-old bulls. Accuracy for production EPDs of these animals will be very low (usually in the .10 range or less) because no progeny have been born and there are no weights to evaluate. The significance of GE-EPD’s is that those low accuracy values can be greatly improved (up to the .25-.3 range). That is roughly the equivalent of having eight progeny records submitted. In the case of birth weight (BW) EPDs, this is a game changer. Now your bull buyers can select bulls with greater confidence that birth weights on future calf crops will be acceptable.
It is important to note that just because you HD Genotype an animal, it will not improve their EPDs. Again, GE-EPDs greatly increase the accuracy of their EPDs. In effect, this takes a lot of guess work out of your mating decisions. This, in turn, leads to satisfied customers who gain greater confidence in Beefmasters. Additional traits are being added to the GE-EPD list almost daily and the future of genetic selection is being driven by genomics.
You will be able to tell if an animal has GE-EPDs by the special “Beefmasters Genomics +” logo that will appear on the animal’s registration certificate and on the pedigree in the BBU search function on the website. For those breeders who are HD Genotyping, animals with the Beefmaster Genomics + logo represent the most dedicated, ardent performance breeders. It will be truly exciting to see how these breeders advance their herds and the entire breed in the future, by using genomics.
Buyers of animals with the Beefmasters Genomics + logo are able to take advantage of the bred in accuracies for those traits and as a result make better genetic and management decisions. Genomics are totally reshaping the beef industry.
For those breeders who are heavily involved in the International market, GE-EPDs give you the most powerful marketing tool ever developed. At the recent International Beefmaster Federation meeting in Houston, the main topic of discussion in regards to genetics was the development of GE-EPDs. Only BBU and the South African Beefmaster Association have GE-EPDs, but our friends in the Mexican Beefmaster Association realize how potent Genomics are and are working toward developing GE-EPDs as well. Mexico has recently adopted new policies in regards to parentage verification and genetic evaluations. U.S. Beefmasters with GE-EPDs will add a whole new level of genetic information to their genetic evaluations as they are included, making Beefmasters more valuable everywhere.
B.E.E.F., who was instrumental in funding the efforts that have led to GE-EPDs for the Beefmaster breed, is now taking the next steps to fund research projects that will lead to even greater genetic selection technologies for Beefmasters. As an example, there is growing evidence that Beefmasters are among the most feed efficient cattle in the United States. Data collected from Growsafe and Kalen gate systems from across the country point to Beefmasters as being consistently able to excel in intake and Residual Feed Intake measurements, while performing very well for weight gain.
Given that feed is the largest input in the beef industry and Beefmasters are showing impressive conversion rates, it only makes sense that we fund further research to develop selection tools for the entire breed to capitalize on. B.E.E.F. is the mechanism to make this happen. EPD development for these traits is occurring as we speak. If we can back the power of genomics into this scenario, Beefmasters would have one of the most powerful selection tools yet.
Perhaps even more intriguing than feed conversion, is the theory that Residual Feed Intake (as calculated by Growsafe systems) is indeed a maternal trait. If that is true, Beefmasters could position ourselves as the Maternal and Efficiency breed for every crossbreeding system. Having said that, it will take money to fund research projects to prove these theories.
B.E.E.F. is ramping up to create an endowment fund to tackle these very important projects head on. Face it, our competition has been funding research projects through our Universities for years. Their research has literally been used as a training tool and educational program for the commercial cattlemen of this nation for the past 25 years. The entire U.S. beef industry has been educated on performance and carcass topics on research funded by breed associations we compete with every day. Don’t you think it is time for Beefmasters to fund projects that will show our strengths and how we can positively impact the bottom line of producers everywhere?
In the coming months, you will be hearing much more about B.E.E.F. and their endowment campaign. With the first success of GE-EPDs, B.E.E.F. stands ready to propel Beefmasters into the future and be the crucial funding mechanism to anchor Beefmaster friendly research around. This will ultimately lead to more market share for our bulls and greatly increase the value of registered Beefmaster females. Keep this in mind when you are considering how much to contribute to the B.E.E.F. endowment fund. Your future is at stake.