THE acceleration of genetic progress in herds via Breedplan data is adding up to gross margin improvements of as much as $3 per cow mated, the developers of the system have determined.
A producer with 500 cows buying bulls from a breeder making the average rate of progress will make about $9000 higher gross margin per year than if the bulls came from a breeder not making genetic progress, according to analysis from the Armidale-based Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU).
AGBU is a joint venture between the NSW Department of Primary Industries and University of New England which launched the technology behind what is considered the world's most advanced genetic evaluation system.
Breedplan utilises Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) technology to produce Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) of recorded cattle for a range of important production traits such as weight, carcase and fertility.
Breeders around the world use Breedplan information to assist in the production of better bulls.
The strongest uptake is in the southern parts of Australia, where the highest gross margin improvements have been achieved, said AGBU director Robert Banks.
"In the North, that figure is lower, at about $1 per cow mated - but there is a really important upkick underway in progress, especially for fertility, or branding rate," he said.
"When all traits contributing to profit are taken into account, breeders not using Breedplan are making much slower genetic progress."
About 70 per cent of bulls sold in southern Australia have EBV available.
In the northern industry, the proportion is about 15pc of bulls sold but a further 25-30pc are sons of bulls evaluated in Breedplan.
Dr Banks said breeders routinely sourced information that combined all the EBV into a single figure - a selection index - to help them in selecting the bulls with the best overall genetic merit, and to help bull buyers get the bulls best suited to their production system and target market.
Uptake in the South had been driven in part by the demand for animals that have genetic merit for marbling, he said.
In the feedlot sector, Angus or Angus-cross and Wagyu or Wagyu-cross animals are highly sought after.
Crossbreeding systems are used by some producers, but there are some markets more focused on straight bred animals, Dr Banks said.
"The Angus breed has made very positive use of Breedplan through the past 25 years," he said.
"In other breeds, uptake has not been so widespread but there are certainly breeders making very good use of the technologies across all the main breeds."
Dr Banks said the benefits being achieved by commercial producers were generally larger than those captured by the studs, although that depended on how much the bull buyer paid for the bulls.
Better genetics, good management and good marketing were all complementary and worked together to boost profitability, he said.
The largest new development with the system surrounds the use of DNA information - using DNA data directly along with pedigree and performance.
"At the more detailed level, directly using carcase feedback data, including Meat Standards Australia, is an exciting development, along with some very valuable steps in EBV for fertility traits in the northern breeds," Dr Banks said.
There are up to 25 EBV available, but there are other traits for which research EBV are available.
Most of the main breeds have two to four indexes available, which combine EBV into overall measures of genetic merit for profit.
Examples of new traits coming online include several based on the bull breeding soundness exam, net feed intake, carcase weight and intramuscular fat percentage based on direct carcase data.
EBV for MSA Index and potentially for MSA component traits - age at puberty, cow condition score and lactational anoestrus - are in the pipeline.
How to make the most of the science?
"If you are a commercial bull buyer, buy from someone who is using Breedplan and making good genetic progress," Dr Banks said.
"If you're a bull breeder, enrol in Breedplan, record carefully using the guidelines that are available, and use Matesel (the tool for optimising mating allocation) to help you get the best genetic progress."