The process is the fifth of its kind since introducing GE-EPDs in 2010, and further refines how DNA test results are incorporated with pedigree, performance measures and progeny data into the selection tools released through the Association’s weekly National Cattle Evaluation (NCE).
“This latest calibration represents a fine-tuning of the genomic-enhanced EPDs provided through AGI,” Moser says. “When this process was first introduced, we had fewer animals with which to train the equations used to generate GE-EPDs. As that process has evolved and we successively gain additional genomic and phenotypic measures, we’re able to refine those equations, allowing for more powerful genetic predictions on more animals.”
AGI and research partner Zoetis began work in June 2015 to train genomic equations using animals within the current population with both DNA information and performance measures like weights and carcass characteristics. Total animals used in the training population numbered more than 108,000 head, a nearly 88% increase from the 57,550 animals used in the last calibration released September 2014 (Fig. 1).
“When GE-EPDs were first developed, they were based on a training population of just more than 2,200 animals, given the novelty of the technology. In comparison, we sometimes process more than that in just one day at AGI,” Moser says. “That’s how quickly we’ve advanced in the past six years. More people than ever are DNA-testing their animals.”
“For the vast majority of animals, producers won’t notice any significant shifts in GE-EPD values after Calibration 5 is released,” Moser assures. “Heifer pregnancy (HP EPD) may show slightly more change than other traits, and the numbers for young animals with DNA information and little or no progeny, or those with newly incorporated progeny information are perhaps more apt to adjust.” (Fig. 2.)
In all cases, GE-EPDs will be more accurate and replace the old process that takes nine to 10 months. Both phenotypic data and the accuracies built through the calibration process work to better characterize the genetic merit and set the stage for further advancements in the science of genetic selection.
“We’re continuously looking for ways to streamline the processes involved in providing the industry’s most advanced genomic-enhanced selection tools,” says Moser. “AGI is committed to keeping Angus breeders at the forefront of this technology and ultimately reducing the risks inherent in managing their individual cow herds while also driving efficiency.”