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Dr. Jamie Courter is your Mizzou Beef Genetics Extension Specialist

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By Jared E. Decker Many of you have probably noticed that things have been a lot less active on the A Steak in Genomics™   blog, but you probably haven't known why. In January 2021, I was named the Wurdack Chair in Animal Genomics at Mizzou, and I now focus on research, with a little bit of teaching. I no longer have an extension appointment. But, with exciting news, the blog is about to become a lot more active! Jamie Courter began as the new MU Extension state beef genetics specialist in the Division of Animal Sciences on September 1, 2023. I have known Jamie for several years, meeting her at BIF when she was a Masters student. I have been impressed by Jamie in my interactions with her since that time.  Dr. Courter and I have been working closely together the last 6 weeks, and I am excited to work together to serve the beef industry for years to come! Jamie holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Carolina State University and earned a master's degree in animal

Angus Association to Launch New Research EPD for Functional Longevity


 It’s an exciting time for Angus breeders across the United States. On Wednesday, October 25th Angus Genetics Incorporated (AGI), part of the American Angus Association (AAA), will launch the first research expected progeny difference (EPD) for Functional Longevity.

The Angus breed and its Board of Directors have placed developing genetic predictions of maternal function and longevity as a strategic priority for several years. As a result of that enterprise, programs like Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR) and Maternal Plus have been created, leading to substantial data reporting and genotyping by breeders on their cow herds. This initiative, combined with extensive work and due diligence by AGI have resulted in the launch of a research version of the Functional Longevity EPD.   

While some breeders may look at this trait and its description and compare it to a traditional ‘Stayability’ EPD, I would caution that interpretation. Traditional Stayability EPDs are reported as the increased likelihood, or percentage, that a cow will stay in the herd until 6 years of age. However, the new Functional Longevity EPD differentiates itself by taking specific culling reasons into account, treating them all as ‘separate’ traits and increasing the accuracy of the prediction. Therefore, AGI defines and reports Functional Longevity as the number of calves a cow will produce by the time she is 6 years old.

As an example, if a producer were to compare a Functional Longevity EPD of 1.5 (Bull A) to 0.5 (Bull B), then he would expect daughters kept from Bull A to have one more calf in their lifetime as compared to Bull B. These differences become even greater when we consider the number of daughters a bull puts into a herd in his lifetime.

It is important to note that because it is a research EPD, values will initially be made available on high accuracy sires and to breeders who participated in AHIR and Maternal Plus prior to July 15, 2023.

The work does not stop here. Breeders will notice initial predictions of Functional Longevity may not show as much variation or accuracy as other long standing trait predictions. This is to be expected. Those things come with time and more (accurate and complete) information. I would encourage all Angus breeders to consider participating in AHIR and Maternal Plus so they can take full advantage of these new tools, all while helping to strengthen the evaluation and the Angus breed. By participating in whole-herd reporting, every trait in the genetic evaluation becomes more accurate as we remove the opportunity for unintentionally biased data. The tremendous added benefit of whole-herd reporting is the ability to predict cow fertility traits. Most importantly, participating in AHIR and Maternal Plus will help move this new EPD from a research tool into routine production.

Breeders should keep in mind that like many fertility-oriented traits, the heritability of Functional Longevity appears to range from 0.09 – 0.12, meaning that there is still a lot of environmental and managerial impact on the physical expression of the trait. However, the fact that it is heritable means that it can be placed into breeding objectives and result in genetic progress.

Lastly, AGI has noted that their next steps are to investigate how to incorporate this key maternal trait into their existing $M index. The current timeline for completion is sometime in the Summer/Fall of 2024.

More information on AHIR, Maternal Plus, or Functional Longevity can be found at angus.org.

Comments

Jamie Courter said…
An official news release from the Angus Association can be found here: https://www.angus.org/media/news/fullarticle?aiid=1205&lstitle=Angus-releases-Functional-Longevity-research-EPD
Celine said…
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