Julian inspects cows and calves

A Free Tool for Measuring Genetic Progress in Commercial Herds

At the beginning of our commercial genomics project the question was raised: How do we measure our current genetic progress? The question was raised in the context of needing a baseline to compare the effect of genomics project on our genetic progress.

The solution I came up with is fairly simple. I decided to graph the changes to the EBV averages for our sire battery from year to year. It only needs two pieces of information:

  1. Which bulls sired calves in a given year
  2. The current EBVs of the bulls

With that data and a few hours of spreadsheet development I came up with the Genetic Progress Tool. The tool makes it easy for the user to build a list of bulls using their Angus Australia ident and nominate which years they sired calves. The sheet splices those idents together into a comma separated list the user can then submit to Database Search on angus.tech. The search results are easily downloaded as a comma separated variable file (CSV) and imported into the Genetic Progress Tool.

The tool lets the breeder evaluate progress in any given trait. There’s a couple of preset graphs looking at the ABI and Grain Index compared to 400D and MCW as these are frequently raised as key traits in breeding objectives (and can fit on two vertical axis).

The graph above shows the genetic progress in our commercial herd using the current data on 28 bulls over the last 6 years.

An obvious short-coming of this tool is that it gives equal weighting to each bull regardless of whether in any given year they sired 6 or 60 calves. If all the sires have somewhat similar EBVs this shouldn’t have a significant impact.

What does it tell me?

The tool uses the linear trend function to iron out the peaks and troughs of the trait averages and explicitly tells you what trending rate of change is. For example, over the last 6 years IMF in our commercial herd is trending upwards at the rate of 0.06%. Traits are reported in whatever units the EBV uses.

How do I access it?

The tool is freely available for anyone interested in giving it a crack. You can help yourself to a copy on Google Sheets or contact me directly for a copy of the spreadsheet in Excel format.

You will need…

  1. Your joining records from a few previous years
  2. Each bulls Angus Australia ident (obviously registered bulls only)
  3. An account on http://angus.tech
  4. Rudementary spreadsheet skills

I think it’s a fairly useful tool and hope you get something out of it. I look forward to the new Angus selection indexes going live again so I can take the $profit increases more seriously.

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