What is BREEDPLAN?
BREEDPLAN is the most modern genetic evaluation system for livestock breeders. It is applied by the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) to the cattle industries. BREEDPLAN offers you the potential to accelerate genetic progress in your herd, tighten up your breeding operations to improve productivity.
BREEDPLAN uses the world’s most advanced genetic evaluation system (ie. an “animal model” which incorporates multi-trait analysis procedures) to produce Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) of recorded cattle for a range of traits (eg. weight, carcase, fertility). In North American countries BREEDPLAN produces Estimated Progeny Differences (EPDs) to conform with the local reporting conventions.
BREEDPLAN is integrated with the pedigree systems of many breeds. With the increasing use of artificial breeding, most herds in a breed have genetic links with other herds. BREEDPLAN technology can be used at a number of levels eg. within-herd analyses for individual breeders, across-herd analyses for members of a breed association or breeding group or international genetic evaluations where breed associations from a number of countries pool their data for analysis.
What are EBVs?
Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) may be used to calculate how future progeny of the subject animal will compare to progeny of other animals within the breed. An animal’s breeding value is its genetic merit, half of which will be passed onto its progeny. While we will never know the exact breeding value, for performance traits it is possible to make good estimates. These are called EBVs. EBVs predict differences, not absolutes.
EBVs are expressed as the difference between an individual animal’s genetics and the genetic base to which the animal is compared. EBVs are reported in the units in which the measurements are taken eg. Kilograms (Kg) for weight. Thus a value of +12kg for 400-day weight means the animal is genetically superior by 12kg at 400 days compared with the genetic base of the relevant cattle population.
What is an EPD?
An Estimated Progeny Difference (EPDs) is the prediction of the genetic merit which an animal transmits on to its progeny. Since calves receive half their genes from each parent, an EPD = ½ EBV. EPDs are used in North America where the weight traits are also usually expressed in pounds (rather than kilograms).
How is an EBV calculated?
An EBV is based on the animals own performance plus the performances of all known relatives, sire, dam, half sisters, uncles etc. Information on one trait can also help predict other correlated traits.
In a simple situation an EBV can be calculated from the records on an animal’s performance, the heritability of the trait and knowledge of the genetic base of the population. For example, if an individual animal weighed say 60kg above the average of its cotemporaries at 400 days and no other information was available on the performance of relatives, etc its EBV would be calculated as follows:
EBV 60 x 0.3 = +18kg
In real life the calculations become more complicated as in a GROUP BREEDPLAN situation they include:
· the animal’s own performance
· the performance of all known relatives in all herds
· the relationship between the different traits
· the performance of all herds over all years of recording
That is, there are literally thousands of calculations that go into producing an EBV for every animal in a large performance recorded population. You can’t do these calculations “on the back of an envelope”. That’s why BREEDPLAN uses a powerful computer to do the job.
How do I use BREEDPLAN EBVs for selecting bulls to improve my herd?
Step one is to decide what characteristics are important in your breeding program, then select the EBVs which fits the bill for your herd.
Cattle breeders can and should use EBVs to assist in bull selection. The first step is to develop a job description for your bulls. What do you expect your bulls to do in your breeding program? Ask yourself these questions.
1) What type of cows will be mated to my bulls?
· Age (heifers and/or mature cows)
· Size (Large framed, medium or small)
Consider EBVs for Calving Ease, Birth Weight and Weaning Weight
2) How will I market the steer calves?
· Sell at weaning
· Sell as yearlings
· Sell as Jap Ox
Consider EBVs for 200, 400 and 600 day Weight, Carcase EBVs as relevant
3) Will I keep the daughters as replacement females?
Consider EBVs for Milk, Gestation length, Calving Ease EBV and Scrotal Circumference
4) What traits are important to you and what level of performance do you want in those traits?
Consider what level of performance you want in a particular trait, then evaluate how different bulls compare with each other, within the Gelbvieh breed.
EBVs from one breed cannot be directly compared with that of another breed. BREEDPLAN data is breed specific, each breed has a specific base value for each trait. Generally, that base value, or figure, is unknown. This means, a +15 EBV for Weaning Weight in Gelbvieh is not the same as a +15 in any other breed. Thus, as an example, the actual numeric value recorded as an EBV for an Angus bull cannot be directly compared with that of a Gelbvieh bull.
New Generation Gelbvieh have been developed through careful genetic selection to exploit the medium correlation and subsequently ‘bend the curve’ between ease of calving and increased weaning weight.
What EBVs are available?
Gelbvieh BREEDPLAN calculates EBVs for a range of traits including:
Eye Muscle Area (EMA)
Meat Yield % (RBY%)
Fat thickness, (Rib & Rump)
Marbling, Intra Muscular Fat % (IMF%)
Mature Cow Weight
Understanding EBV traits & how to use EBVs
Gestation Length EBV indicates lighter birth weights and easier calving. Birth Weight EBV indicates the genetic potential for birth weight. The lower the birth weight EBV of a sire the lighter is the birth weight potential of his progeny.
200-Day Milk (kg) is an estimate of sire's milking ability. This EBV indicates the effect of the daughters milking ability, inherited from the sire, on the 200 day weight of her calves.
200-Day Growth (kg) is calculated from the weight of progeny taken between 80 and 300 days of age. Values are adjusted to 200 days and for age of dam. This EBV is the best single estimate of a sire's genetic merit for growth to early ages.
400-Day Weight (kg) is calculated from the weight of progeny taken between 301 and 500 days of age, adjusted to 400 days and for age of dam. This EBV is the best single estimate of a sire's genetic merit for yearling weight.
600-Day Weight (kg) is calculated from the weight of progeny taken between 501 and 900 days of age, adjusted to 600 days and for age of dam. This EBV is the best single estimate of a sire's genetic merit for growth beyond yearling age.
Eye Muscle Area EBV (cm2) estimates genetic differences in eye muscle area at the 12/13th rib site of a 300kg dressed carcase. More positive EBVs indicate better muscling on animals.
Rib Fat EBV (mm) estimates the genetic differences in fat depth at the 12/13th rib in a 300 kg dressed carcase. More positive EBVs indicate more subcutaneous fat and earlier maturity.
Rump Fat EBV (mm) estimates the genetic differences in fat depth at the P8 site of a 300kg dressed carcase. More positive EBVs indicate more subcutaneous fat and earlier maturity.
Scrotal Size EBV (cm) is calculated from the circumference of the scrotum, measured in centimetres and adjusted to 400 days of age. This EBV is an indicator of male fertility in regards to semen quality and quantity. Higher (positive) EBVs indicate higher fertility. Scrotal size is also positively associated with earlier age at puberty of bull and heifer progeny.
Mature Cow Weight is an estimate of an animal's potential for growth to maturity. Carcase Weight EBV is an indicator of the genetic difference in carcase weight at a standard age of 650 days.
Retail Beef Yield % EBV indicates genetic differences between animals for retail yield percentage in a standard 300 kg carcase. Sires with larger EBVs are expected to produce progeny with higher yielding carcases.
Intra Muscular Fat (IMF) % EBV indicates genetic differences between animals for intra muscular fat percentage (marbling in a standard 300 kg carcase. Sires with positive EBVs are expected to produce progeny with higher average marble scores.
How are Gelbvieh Bulls Ranked on EBVs
All EBVs are shown as + or - kg liveweight, EBVs are relative (to other Gelbvieh GROUP EBVs) and are fixed on a set base level. This means that you can directly compare Group EBVs across Gelbvieh herds and across years.
Are All Traits Inherited Equally?
No. Some traits are more closely aligned with genetic influences than others. ‘Heritability’ is the name for what percentage (%) a trait is known to be scientifically inherited.
What is Heritability?
In simple terms heritability is the proportion of the genetic superiority or inferiority of an animal that is passed on to its progeny. Heritability will vary for different traits and breeds, but some commonly used values are given below, and their use is described opposite.
Trait | Heritability%
Milk | 10%
Gestation length | 22%
Weaning growth | 20%
400 day weight | 30%
Fat depth | 30%
Scrotal size | 42%
Heritability is gauged by examining the differences amongst same sire progeny groups. For a trait that is 40 percent heritable, 40 percent of the variation in the contemporary group is due to genetics and 60 percent is due to environment. The higher the heritability, the easier it is to make a genetic change in one specific trait.
Since heritability is already considered in BREEDPLAN calculations, EBVs reflect actual genetic differences.
The Gelbvieh ‘Animal & EBV Enquiry’ Search Facility
On the lefthand side of the Gelbvieh home page you will see a link down the list called "Animal & EBV Enquiry", this website is a powerful search facility that runs from the current Australian Gelbvieh Herdbook. through it you can search pedigrees of any animal in the Gelbvieh Herdbook as well as their current EBVs.
This search facility can allow breeders to target pedigrees/EBVs or specific traits of animals in the Gelbvieh Herdbook to improve their own herds, it is especially useful to search animals before sales or for making breeding decisions, by helping to select sires to cross over your females.
How reliable are EBVs?
By definition, EBVs are estimates of an animal’s true breeding value. The estimate is made from analysis of all information that is available on the animal. Naturally, the more information that is available the more accurate the estimate will be.
"Accuracy" ratings are quoted in percentage terms from 0-99 for GROUP BREEDPLAN EBVs. In sale catalogues, for example, the recommended layout shows the accuracy as a percentage figure in the box below the EBV.
As an example, if the only information is the bull’s own measured performance for 400 day Wt (a trait with a heritability of 30%), the accuracy of his EBV for that trait will be 55%. If 10 progeny records are added to this analysis the accuracy of his EBV will increase to 76%. The individual’s performance plus 45 progeny records give an accuracy of 90%.
**The more records there are, the greater the Accuracy & reliability of the Estimated Breeding Values.**
Accuracies are expressed as a percentage and give an indication of the amount of information available to calculate the estimated breeding value (EBV). The higher the accuracy, the lower the likelihood of change in the animal's EBV as more performance information is gathered on the animal and its relatives.
The following guides are given for interpreting accuracies: Accuracy range Interpretation
less than 50% - EBVs are preliminary and could change substantially as more performance information becomes available;
50-74% - medium accuracy, based on the animal’s own records and pedigree;
75-90% - medium-high accuracy. Some progeny information included. It is unlikely that EBVs will change much with addition of more progeny data. Use with confidence;
more than 90% - high accuracy estimate of the animal’s true breeding value.
As a rule, animals should be compared on EBVs regardless of accuracy. However, where two animals have similar EBVs the one with higher accuracy could be the safer choice, assuming other factors are equal.
Please note - in North America a different formula is used for reporting accuracy and so the above table does not apply to the accuracy’s reported in North American evaluations.
Does BREEDPLAN separate genetics from environment?
Yes! This is a very important feature of BREEDPLAN. When you look at an animal, 70% of what you see is the contribution of the environment (eg. feed quality, disease, management etc) to the animal’s size - only 30% is due to genetics. But it is only the genetic component that is transmitted from one generation to the next. It is the genetics that makes an animal valuable for breeding - but unfortunately we can’t “see” these genetics separately from the environmental influence. However, BREEDPLAN can separate out genetics from the environment and this allows you to select for real genetic differences.
Here’s how it is done. Assume that the calves from a particular drop (ie. spring 1998) are drafted two ways. Group 1 is run on good feed and Group 2 on poor feed. Calf A in Group 1 has a 400-day weight of 430kg and calf B in Group 2 has a 400-day weight of 390kg (see Table below). Is calf A genetically better than calf B because it is heavier at the same age? Not necessarily. The average weight of Group 1 is 420kg, so calf A is just 10kg above average. Calf B is 30kg above the average of Group 2. Calf B is correctly assessed as being better in its own group. If the two groups are genetically similar, you would find that calf B will have a better EBV than calf A. The higher absolute weight of calf A is due to the better environment.
Group 1 2 Feed good poor Calf Id A B Calf Wt (kg) 430 390 Average Wt of Group (kg) 420 360 Difference from Av. +10 +30 Heritability of Trait .3 .3 Difference from Group due to Genetics +3 +9
What is a genetic trend?
Because environment is separated out from genetics in the BREEDPLAN evaluation, and the data is analysed over a number of years, it is possible to calculate the genetic trend for each trait. This trend can be calculated for an individual herd or the breed as a whole. As a breeder you will be able to see the progress you are making in the traits included in your selection program. As a buyer of genetics, you can zero in on purchasing genetics from those herds whose genetic trends are above the breed average. By checking the EBV ‘profiles’ you can tailor your sire purchases to suit your country and markets.
Can animals be compared across Gelbvieh herds?
Yes, BREEDPLAN is able to compare animals across herds provided there are genetic links between the herds. These links are provided by the use of AI sires and the sale of cattle from one herd to another. These links are reinforced by the detailed pedigrees available in BREEDPLAN and breed association databases.
Let’s look at the example where cattle on 3 properties A, B and C are compared. They all use a link sire by AI, and compare his progeny with those of a different home sire on each property. Property A is having a bad season, B average and C very good.
Average Weight (kgs) Herd A Herd B Herd C Link Sire Progeny 340 380 420 (Common Sire) Sire X 360 - - Home Sire’s Progeny Sire Y - 380 - Sire Z - - 400 Difference between Home/Link Sires +20kg 0 -20kg
>From the differences in the average weight of progeny from home sires and the link sire in each herd, we can see that herd sire X tested in herd A is superior to sire Y from herd B, which is superior to sire Z from herd C. (This assumes reasonable numbers of progeny measured and cows of equal performance. Adjustments are made if the cows are known to differ in performance on BREEDPLAN figures.) EBVs are then calculated from these progeny differences. In this example, if the link sire is a base animal, EBVs would approximate - X +40, Y 0, Z -40, ie. double the progeny differences as sires only contribute half the genes.
This example also demonstrates that breeders should not be concerned that their EBVs will be depressed if they continue their recording programs during a drought.
How often are GROUP BREEDPLAN EBVs calculated?
The computing of GROUP BREEDPLAN EBVs is very consumptive of computer resources, time (for supervision) and money (for publication of results). Most breeds, therefore, only have this done once or twice per year. A genetic “base” for the breed is determined as part of the GROUP BREEDPLAN run and EBVs of individual animals are calculated relative to the breed base. Gelbvieh has one Group BREEDPLAN run per year, usually in March.
The Australian Gelbvieh Association produced its first GROUP BREEDPLAN report in 2001 and continues to do so annually.
What are Interim GROUP BREEDPLAN reports?
Interim reports are calculated for herds that submit new data between the GROUP BREEDPLAN runs. Interim EBVs are GROUP EBVs updated with this new performance information and are comparable with GROUP BREEDPLAN EBVs.
Why should I join BREEDPLAN?
Performance recording provides both breeders and buyers more information on which to base their decisions. The importance placed on performance figures or on appearance and type can depend on who is doing the choosing. However to not provide the information is leaving the job half done.
BREEDPLAN takes the guesswork out of selection decisions. You can’t see an animal’s genes! Two animals might look the same, but genetically they could be quite different. From just looking at a bull you can’t tell:
· whether his daughters will be good milkers,
· how fertile his daughters will be,
· how big his calves will be at birth and how they will grow on,
· what will be the carcase yield of his progeny.
These are the very factors that determine the profitability of your enterprise. By giving you the EBVs of animals for the factors you can’t see, BREEDPLAN takes the guesswork out of your selection program. Stud and commercial cattle breeders can accelerate genetic progress and improve profitability. That’s why you should be in it.
What do I need to do if I join BREEDPLAN?
Use of the BREEDPLAN service is easy. The minimum requirements are:
1. Recording date of birth
2. Ear tag calves (for identification)
3. Recording sire and dam of each calf
4. Weigh calves at least once, usually around 200 days of age.
That is, the fourth step is the only work additional to keeping normal breeding records.
Please note that it is not necessary to weigh calves at birth and BREEDPLAN can be used effectively by both stud and commercial breeders. It therefore becomes a part of your normal management program
Of course, you can go a lot further and record the following optional information:
· Birth weight
· Yearling and 18 month old weights
· Live animal fat and muscle scans
· Scrotal circumference
· Carcase data from abattoirs
Most breeders start with the simple system and move into the options if and when they see a need for such options in their selection and marketing programs.
If you are:
· recording with a breed that has installed an integrated pedigree-performance system,
· using AI to create genetic linkage to other herds, or
· you have bought in most of your females from a GROUP BREEDPLAN herd,
· you can successfully participate in BREEDPLAN with as few as 12 females.
How to Join Gelbvieh BREEDPLAN?
Agricultural Business Research Institute
University of New England,
Armidale, NSW 2351
Phone: 02 6773 3032
Fax: 02 6772 5376