Show Notes

What are breeding values? And why do you need a breeding objective? Our guest this week, Dr Jamie Courter, Mizzou Beef Genetics Extension Specialist, explains why they are so important for reaching our breeding goals. 

Do you have a breeding objective? This is the first question Jamie asks every producer. “I don't care what your breeding objective is if it makes sense for you,” says Jamie, “I just hope that you have one.” With no farm being the same as another, a breeding objective needs to be personalised to the goals of each individual business.

But why are they so important? “That's how we can be profitable. We have to identify an end goal and we have to keep making consistent selection decisions that get us towards that goal. You won't see the impact of this year's bull decisions until five years down the road. If we don't have that objective in mind, we're just shooting in the dark. We're not heading towards that steady upward trajectory of the traits that really matter,” explains Jamie.

So, once you know where you want to be, how do you get there? Breeding values, be it an ASBV, EBV or EPD are the best tool we have to reach that goal. 

Jamie does a great job of explaining how breeding values work and why results can vary. “I always ask producers, do you have siblings? Do you act the same, do you look the same? Light bulbs come on kind of at that point,” she shares. “In the beef cattle industry, we put pens of full sibling bulls together. It's a great way to get genetic uniformity, but it's not identical, right? They're as similar as they can be, but they're never identical.”

Keeping in mind that there are always outliers is useful. “If we have a hundred full siblings, then we would expect the average performance of those hundred calves to be the parent average, right? Most of the calf crop will have a weight right around what we expect, but we're going to have outliers on either side,” says Jamie. “It's just a result of the shuffling of the DNA. A lot of times people expect it to be perfect and unfortunately with statistics, there's always outliers one way or the other.”

Jamie points out, “We can get a good picture of the true genetic merit of those animals and which pieces of DNA they inherited from their sire or their dam. It's 50% both times, but there are 30 pairs of chromosomes and there are however many million base pairs that could have been inherited. And so we're able to get at the true genetic difference that those animals have, with genetics.”

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