The Impact of Recessive Genes in Angus

AUSTRALIA - Angus Australia’s new CEO, Dr Peter Parnell, believes the discovery of recessive genetic conditions in some lines of Angus cattle will have little impact on the future genetic progress of the breed in Australia.
calendar icon 12 May 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

“Angus breeders in Australia have a strong track record of utilizing the available technology to manage and improve the genetic performance of the breed”, said Dr Parnell.

“Over the past two decades the Angus breed has made unprecedented rates of genetic progress – far greater than that documented for any other beef cattle population in the world”, he said.

“For example, average profitability of Australian Angus cattle for the high value long-fed Japanese and Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) markets has improved by more than $70 per cow since the introduction of Angus BREEDPLAN in the mid-1980s, with current annual rate of improvement of about $4.50 per cow. This is on top of any improvements made through better feeding and management”, he said.

Angus breeders have achieved this impressive rate of genetic improvement through the use of the best Angus genetics in the world, including importation of semen from the best sires in USA, Canada and New Zealand.

However, one of the short-term consequences of this rapid genetic improvement has been a degree of concentration of the Angus gene pool.

Dr Parnell believes the recent discovery of undesirable recessive genes in Angus has been a timely warning to seedstock breeders that they need to maintain genetic diversity in the breed.

“But, just as Angus breeders have embraced tools such as BREEDPLAN Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to achieve improvement in the past, they will also use the newly developed DNA genetic tests to manage recessive genetic conditions, and eventually make even faster genetic improvement in the future”, Dr Parnell predicted.

Dr Parnell believes the greatest potential cost of recessive genetic defects will result from overreaction.

“All cattle, indeed, all animals including humans, carry copies of undesirable recessive genes,” he said.

Fortunately, modern technology can deliver DNA tests for seedstock breeders to rapidly detect and manage these conditions according to Dr Parnell.

“Whilst this is an unfortunate additional cost for seedstock breeders, the impact at the commercial level will be negligible if bull buyers source their replacements from reputable seedstock breeders with genetic management plans in place”, he said.

“The greatest risk to the commercial sector from recessive genetic conditions comes from unregistered bulls with unknown genetic background”.

Dr Parnell said a high priority for Angus Australia is the future development of Angus BREEDPLAN to incorporate gene marker information when this technology begins to deliver valuable genetic information for traits such as feed efficiency and meat tenderness.

Trend in profitability improvement of Australian Angus cattle for the High Quality Feedlot and Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) markets.

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