By Kelli Retallick – President, Angus Genetics Inc
Everyone has heard that saying a time or two in life. At Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), a subsidiary of the American Angus Association, it is a lot about what is known, but also knowing whom to collaborate with to make those ideas a reality. This thought process rings true when AGI reflects on the strategic partnerships that have grown over the years.
One of those longstanding partnerships is with the talent at Neogen. Over the years, AGI and Neogen have collaborated, researched, and implemented cutting-edge genomic technologies for Angus breeders. Angus GSSM is one recent accomplishment. This test was the first genomic test on the market that was purely saturated with Angus specific content. The strategic opportunity allowed for continued research targeting specific areas of the genome predicted to have high impacts on traits that affect a producer’s bottom line.
Since the launch of Angus GS in 2017, thousands of individual Angus animals have been tested, helping to build the world’s largest single beef breed genomic database in the world. Just this past year due to the commitment of American Angus Association members and users of Angus genetics as well as AGI’s collaborative lab partners, Angus members surpassed 1 MILLION genotypes being included into their genetic evaluation. With the advent of new genomic tests, continued improvement in technology, and lower testing costs provided by our laboratory partners, testing continues to grow from year to year.
Angus members have utilized genomics to decrease the risk passed onto their commercial customers. Having a bull with EPDs that include genomic information increases the EPD accuracy of a young yearling bull as much as having an entire calf crop’s worth of data already collected. The value of a genomic test, like Angus GS, increases the accuracy of a bull’s EPDs to the same level as having nearly 20 progeny already included in the Association’s evaluation. Table 1 shows the effective number of progeny equivalents a genomic test adds to a young sire before he ever breeds a cow.
Table 1. Approximate progeny equivalents gained with addition of genomic test.
Angus producers have also capitalized on genomic information to accelerate the genetic changes in their own herds, investing capital back into their operations in the form of genomic tests on females. This has allowed producers to identify the females they want to rapidly propagate, or which replacements best fit their operation’s individual breeding goals. Over the years AGI has witnessed a strong passion of Angus members investing back into their own herds to create the best breeding stock for their commercial customers. Figure 1 illustrates the number of males versus females who have been tested and are currently being utilized for the prediction of Angus EPDs. In total, 45% of the Angus genomic database is female. This investment supports the idea Angus producers have embedded genomics as part of their management and decision protocols. It is not just a marketing tool but rather a long-term strategy to move their herd towards their goals.
Figure 1. Illustrates the number of males versus females who have been tested with a genomic test which is currently being utilized for the prediction of EPDs.
*Note: AGI’s fiscal year ends in September therefore the graph above does not show 2021 in its entirety. The number of total tests year over year has been made up of several different genomic testing platforms provided by AGI’s laboratory partners, Neogen and Zoetis, since 2011.
Even though many would agree genomic testing has clear advantages, the value of genomics has yet to reach its highest limits. The AGI team and collaborative partners including Neogen continue to push the innovation wheel. The additional information being regularly added to all of Angus’s testing platforms allows for another level of research to take place. It has enabled increased focus on areas of the genome that affect health and fertility to name a few. While research takes time, the groundwork already accomplished with the help of Neogen has allowed AGI to gain ground investigating important traits. The wheel of innovation never stops, and Angus producers should sleep well knowing they are firmly on board.