The Bonsmara breed has taken the lead to make Genomic Selection for the breed in Africa, and even globally, a reality when Bonsmara SA, at their annual general meeting, in 2012decided to invest in genomic selection. This investment in the future of the breed was made by gaining access to the genomic profiles of influential breeding animals to establish a reference population. The initial investment was made from own funds and contributions from fellow breeders. The animal scientists at Stud Book worked closely with the Bonsmara Council in taking the lead in planning and executing the project and following scientific principles needed to make genomic information part of breeding value predictions for the breed.
The Bonsmara system is the ideal foundation to apply genomic selection.
Bonsmara breeders take part in a system where traits of economic importance are routinely measured and recorded. This is a prerequisite for successful breeding value predictions, including the incorporation of genomic information. The establishment of a reference population was accelerated when the Beef Genomics Program (BGP), financed by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), was established in April 2015. Due to the commitment of the Bonsmara breeders to record diligently, the breed’s main focus in the BGP is to add as many as possible influential breeding animals to the reference population. A main focus is also to include the genomic profiles of females with a large influence in the breed. This has the advantage that sex limited traits, only measurable on females could be linked more accurately to the genomic differences among animals in the breed. The chosen cows already had very accurate BLUP breeding value predictions for these traits. They include traits such as age at first calving, calving interval and maternal influences on birth and weaning weights. Due to the enthusiastic participation of Bonsmara breeders in central and farm growth tests for young bulls, trustworthy information is also available for traits such as feed intake and those associated with Real Time Ultrasound scanning (subcutaneous fat depth, eye muscle area and marbling). To avoid weak links between some genetic groups or herds with the information on genomic profiles for the breed, all breeders were encouraged to submit biological samples (semen straws or hair samples) of their herd sires to be included in the reference population.
While the collection of hair samples and semen from influential animals took place and the genomic profiles became available, the animal scientists at SA Stud Book continued with the model development, evaluation of the available computer software and evaluating test evaluations where genomic information was included in the BLUP evaluations. The rapid scientific and technological developments also made it possible to consider the implementation of the, so called, “Single Step” method in the genomically enhanced BLUP breeding value predictions. This method has more advantages and can form part of the routine BLUP evaluations for the breed that currently takes place once a month. Effectively each animal receives a Genomic Breeding Value that is an adaptation from the expected BLUP breeding value for such an animal based on its true relationship with all other animals, with genomic profiles, in the population. The true relationship between animals with genomic profiles is therefore known. The obvious advantage is that it will be known what gene combination a young animal received from its parents, given that the genomic information is known. Does this animal take after the better parental line or not? The accuracy of the BLUP breeding value for young animals, especially those without measurements yet, is therefore enhanced, compared to those without genomic profiles. This is especially of value for traits or properties that can only be measured on one of the two sexes, like the genetic merit of cows to restrict the birth weight of their calves, to wean heavier calves, to calve early in season as a heifer and subsequently each calving season as can be determined by breeding values for calving ease, milk, pre-wean growth, age at first calving and calving interval. Traits that are traditionally only recorded on bulls, like feed intake (and the efficiency of converting it into growth) and traits associated with scanning like eye muscle area and marbling gain a lot through the inclusion of genomic information in the BLUP breeding value predictions.
The Bonsmara Breeders’ Society of South Africa and SA Stud Book are therefore proud to announce the availability of the first Genomic BLUP breeding values for the breed from 1 July 2017. This is also now part of the regular routine monthly genetic evaluation. This service enables breeders to test young animals genomically to enhance the accuracy of BLUP breeding values for those animals. This reduces the risk associated with decisions in selecting young animals that will impact on the genetic merit of herds in future. Young bulls are excellent candidates to include in these programs, especially if they are considered as future herd sires and AI bulls.
Animals with known genotypes included in the BLUP evaluations will be identified by the “GenoTyped” logo. Searches for Bonsmaras on www.SABeefBulls.com can also be conducted on the genotyped status of animals.
For further information, contact Bobbie van der Westhuizen (firstname.lastname@example.org), Helena Theron (email@example.com), Bernard Burger (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Louis Steyl (email@example.com).
President: Bonsmara SA
General Manager: SA Stud Book
26 June 2017
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