Next gen beef breeding strategies for the northern Australian beef industry

This project is investigating genetic and genomic strategies to increase the herd reproductive performance of the northern Australian beef industry.

The Beef CRC demonstrated that component traits of fertility (age of puberty, post-partum reconception interval, scrotal circumference and semen quality) in two tropical breeds (Brahman and Tropical Composite) are at least moderately heritable and substantial improvements in reproductive performance can be achieved (Johnston et al. 2009; Corbet et al. 2013). Fertility traits in males (especially sperm morphology traits) have been shown to be genetically correlated with key fertility traits in females (Johnston et al. in preparation). Therefore, genetic improvement programs focussed on bull selection for improved fertility should result in improvements in both male and female fertility and thus overall herd reproductive performance.

While breeding values for traits such as age at puberty, post-partum anoestrus interval and percent normal sperm can be estimated for sires used in the Beef CRC, this information is not currently available to the general industry and has not been used to evaluate or demonstrate that both the seedstock and commercial beef sectors can improve the reproductive performance of their herds.

There is also a need to further evaluate the genetic marker technology developed by the Beef CRC for age of puberty, post-partum anoestrus interval and lifetime weaning rate. Traits need to be recorded at the industry level to ensure the genetic parameters are similar to those estimated in research populations.

While researchers are confident that the strategies generated by the Beef CRC are genetically reliable and useful, there is an urgent need to further evaluate and demonstrate the implementation of these strategies to the industry in an integrated and practical way and to develop momentum for change.

This Meat & Livestock Australia funded project will participate in on-property collaborative research activities with Santa Gertrudis, Droughtmaster and Brahman BREEDPLAN seedstock bull breeding herds in northern Australia. These three genotypes were selected because they are the three largest tropically adapted genotypes in Australia.

The initial focus of the project is to evaluate, validate and demonstrate genetic and genomic methods of increasing herd reproductive performance, while being cognisant of growth and carcase trait information, and also increasing the frequency of polledness in these tropically adapted seedstock herds in Queensland. Standard traits for BREEDPLAN genetic evaluations will be collected and analysed in the collaborating herds.

This project’s research activities will deliver better information for herd management decisions while enabling the selection of superior breeding animals for production, fertility and poll traits resulting in increased genetic progress of these collaborating seedstock herds and the subsequent production of superior sires for use by the northern Australian beef industry.

When: 2012–2016

Where: North Queensland

Contact: Dr Brian Burns E:

Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QAAFI, UQ Centre for Animal Science, UQ School of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of New England, Tropical Beef Technology ServicesAgricultural Business Research Institute, and Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit.

RD&E objectives: Enterprise viability: Increasing cost efficiency and productivity and profitability

Industry priority: Reproduction

Useful links: For more information about Beef CRC research, please visit the Beef CRC legacy website.