Pedigree – Relevant for the past 100 years

October 22, 2018 3:44 pm

From the beginning of the Angus Australia herd book in 1922 with 65 bulls, 313 cows and a number of cattle in the appendices, pedigree information has remained as relevant today as it was then. The integrity of the herd book depends on accurate pedigree information being recorded and the information obtained through a pedigree provides a valuable link to connect data with animals.  

The past 100 years has seen the cattle breeding and genetics space achieve significant developments from the introduction of artificial insemination (A.I.) and embryo transfer (E.T.) through to breeding values and genomics. All of which, if they are going to deliver their benefits to a breeding program rely on accurate pedigree information.  

Pedigree information in the early days enabled breeders to predict, to a certain degree, the type of offspring a bull or cow might produce. This concept of using pedigree information to predict potential offspring is still used today, with one fundamental difference: data. The amount of objective data and information which now feeds in to what we know about an animal is huge and this is why breeding values are so valuable to a breeding program, but also why accuracy of pedigree is still crucial.  

Breeding values draw in information from the performance recording on an animal, the performance recording done on relatives of the animal (pedigree) and from genomic information, which links performance recording to genes rather than animals. If this information is incorrectly allocated then the breeding values would link the wrong information to an animal and calculate an incorrect estimated breeding value (EBV).  

Now there might be situations where inaccurate pedigree doesn’t sound like a big problem, with the ‘guess now, fix later’ philosophy to recording pedigree. The issue with this approach is that EBVs are not isolated and the EBV calculation for an animal in another herd will be affected, due to sharing relatives or genes. In another article, we discussed the influence of past sires on the calves we produce this year (Understanding a bull’s influence in your herd) and so inaccuracies in pedigree information can affect a huge number of animals.  

It is important to note there is also significant legal risk around inaccurate pedigree information, particularly with the sale of an animal with an incorrect pedigree, due to the influence it has on the value of an animal to another breeding program. 

This influence has seen Angus Australia implement the parentage verification requirements for registering calves and also the Angus Parentage Assurance program. These initiatives enable members to trust that the data being used to generate an animals EBVs is from the correct source and ultimately enables the information to be used to make selection decisions.  

The importance of accuracy in pedigree information is not just limited to breeding values, with the potential for incorrect information impacting the calculation of genetic conditions and inbreeding, both of which can have a detrimental impact on a breeding program if not appropriately managed.  

The genetic condition status of an animal can be determined one of two ways; the first and most definitive is through genetic testing which determines if the genes responsible for the genetic condition are carried by the animal. The second is through pedigree and is performed on registered animals, through GeneProb, if a genetic test has not been done.  

The GeneProb analysis determines the probability that an animal is a carrier for a genetic condition based on an analysis of the animal’s pedigree and the genetic condition status of animals within the pedigree. The inheritance pattern of genetic conditions such as developmental duplication (DD) or red gene (RD), enable them to be tracked through a pedigree and, in the same way as with breeding values, if incorrect information is used then an incorrect genetic condition status can result.  

Achieving genetic gain requires accuracy with the selection decisions we make and the fundamental key to accuracy is correct information. As the cattle industry benefits from further developments within the breeding and genetics space the importance of accuracy of data sources will remain the same. Technologies like A.I. and E.T. rely on elite animals being identified as these technologies enable them to produce an increased number of progeny and therefore have a greater influence on the breeding program. Not being able to identify elite animals means our breeding program cannot benefit.  

For further information or support contact staff at Angus Australia on (02) 6773 4600 or