How will this research impact Alberta’s agriculture industry?
Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs), and results multi-trait selection indices, have not been well-adopted by the commercial beef industry. Challenges include limited vertical integration, the use of many breeds, non-systematic crossbreeding and natural mating, all leading to weak genetic linkage among beef cattle populations. These challenges lead to low availability and accuracy of growth, feed efficiency and carcass EPDs for beef bulls used by producers. A recent Alberta study showed that of 158 bulls siring >2,500 feeders, less than 40% of the bulls had EPDs for carcass traits and 30% had EPDs for feed efficiency. Of bulls that had EPDs, accuracies were low (<25%).
Advances in genomics by Livestock Gentec have resulted in molecular breeding values (MBVs) and MBV-driven Feeder Profit Indices (FPI) with moderate accuracy (>40%), which in their application, do not required pedigree information or the collection of progeny data for expensive-to-measure traits. For feed efficiency alone, this translates into a savings of ~$2,000/bull in not having to test 10-15 progeny through Growsafe Systems.
Preliminary analysis of industry animals with performance and carcass data revealed that each 100 points in FPI is equal to $29 in feeder net return, though this required further validation and refinement for different production systerms. Benefits will include increased net return, improved carcass/meat quality, reduced age to slaughter and reduced carbon footprint of beef production.
How will research knowledge from this project be transferred and shared with producers?
Livestock Gentec will work with team members, cow-calf producers, industry organizations, and the newly-funded Alberta Innovates-funded Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge (SAFDAC) project called “Arm-chair Rancher” to bring modern IT innovations to beef ranchers across Alberta.
A “dashboard format” will be developed to help deliver herd genetic information, sire contribution, and economic benefits through mobile applications directly to participating producers. Project outcomes will also be disseminated through producer meetings. They will also be written into industry articles and websites for Gentec, Grey Wooded Forage Association, and the Alberta Beef Producers. Existing data management systems like Herdtrax by Telus Agriculture will also be used to deploy results to specific producers.
The PI and team communicators will reach out to the leadership of CBIN to discuss areas of collaboration, which will likely occur in genomic tool development and knowledge translation. Genomic tools will be offered as a fee for service to Canadian commercial beef industry through Gentec, and/or licensed third parties.