Genetic selection: no better than the information behind it
For seed producers, reporting performance data is critical to EPD accuracy
“Information, information, information. Data, data, data.” This was the message Dr. Joe Massey received in his talk with wagyu breeders during the recent World Wagyu Congress in San Antonio, Texas, and he emphasized it time and time again.
That message? If Wagyu breeders want accurate EPD data to move their genetics forward, it is essential that they provide breed association with performance data. “You need the data so you can see what’s actually happening in your lineage. Otherwise you won’t have any sense of genetic selection.”
Massey founded DigitalBeef, which is now used by the American Wagyu Association and 15 other breed associations in the United States and Canada, after spending nine years as executive director of the breed association. “First and foremost, it’s software that allows the association to register your animals, track membership, track your livestock sales and where they’re moving,” he said.
“Secondly, if you become a DigitalBeef user, you’ll learn a lot about your herd, so it helps you be a better manager of your operation. The third part is that it’s breed association management software.”
However, wagyu breeders, some of whom are new to cattle and beef production, have said they are in the business of genetics. “You want to know the genetic value of your animals so you can see trends,” he said. In short, tell wagyu breeders that they are in the performance business.
“What does that mean? You’re trying to collect birth weights, weaning weights, annual weights, carcass data, you name it. But if that’s not reported to the association, there’s not much benefit in increasing the accuracy of the EPDs that breeders use for mate selection.”
The accuracy of an EPD is a reflection of the amount of data behind it. “Accuracy is that the more offspring you have (with performance data reported), the more accurate the record (for sire and dam) will be.”
For example, you are considering using a bull with an EPD plus 30 for weaning weight. But the accuracy of EPD is 0.10. This means that you will have, on average, a range of plus or minus 10 pounds. “This means you choose a bull in which you think you will have an average weaning weight gain of 30 pounds, but it could be as little as 20 pounds or as much as 40 pounds.”
However, as more data are reported on the offspring of this bull, the accuracy of the EPD will increase and the expected range in genetic variation will become smaller. “Then, all of a sudden, your ability to predict becomes greater,” he said.
“The point is that you have the tools to breed your cattle in advance and know what to expect. That expectation comes from the accuracy of those EPDs. So more data, more data, more data on more calves, more predictability.”