By Jack Allen, Technical Director,ABRI
Why do performance recording?
Comparison of animals has been used in breeding
programs for centuries. Whether it is done in the show ring, the
paddock or over the scales – animals have been selected on their perceived
advantages. The problem encountered by many breeders is how to
allow for different management, feed quality and quantity, animal
ages, etc in assessing if one animal is better suited to their
breeding program than another. It gets even more difficult when
you are presented with lots of animals from different and diverse
Performance recording is just measuring some
of the more commercially orientated aspects on the animal and
then comparing them with other animals within the herd. Over
the years, more sophisticated ways of analyzing the information
have been developed, allowing animals to be compared across herds
as well as within herd.
Calculating Estimated Breeding Values
(EBVs) necessarily involves using sophisticated statistical routines
over the information supplied by breeders to the Society. These
EBVs are aimed at estimating the genetic potential of the animals – what
is passed on from one generation to the next, rather than how
good the paddock was where the animal was raised.
You to compare animals within your herd; You to compare animals
from outside your herd with those that you have; Others to compare
your animals to theirs (should they buy your animals - or your
How much is a good bull worth? What is the cost
of a bad bull?
The sires you use in your herd are there to produce calves – not
show rosettes, not EBVs - these are just by-products. Show rosettes
may tell you how the animal compares to other animals at this point
in time – rosettes do not indicate how good the progeny will
be. EBVs try to predict what the progeny might be like as well
as an emphasis on the current animal for the traits recorded.
a stud herd perspective, a “good” bull will not only
produce good calves for market, but also good replacement breeding
animals – either for your herd or others. Hence the legacy
of a “good” bull lasts for generations.
the legacy of a “bad” bull can also last for generations.
EBVs are designed to help you, and others, select the “good” bulls.
You still need to consider the animal, his structure and the purpose
you want to use him for. EBVs do not select the bull – EBVs
help rank animals for commercial traits as an aid to help you to
select the bull.
An interesting point to note is that at the recent
Perth Bull Sales in November, 36 bulls sold that were in the top
10% of the Breedplan Terminal Sire Index sold to an average of £5400.
39 Bulls that were outside the top 10%sold to an average of £2700
and 8 out of the 39 made more than the sale average.
Performance data – it’s
While we run “sophisticated statistical routines” tocalculate
the EBVs, the requirement for the analysis is simply good comparisons
between animals in your herd. All you need to do is manage your herd
to get good comparisons between animals - you don’t need to
worry about the complicated statistical stuff.
Both small and large
herds need to get good comparisons between animals. It is usually
easier to get good comparisons in larger herds, although they can
No matter how smart the computer is, the system
know which animals have been managed on farm together
and what their pedigree and performance is. The whole
system relies on you. Not only do we need you to tell the
system that calf “A” weighed 20kg heavier than calf “B”,
but also when the calves were born, who their sires and
dams are, etc and whether you think it is “fair” to compare
these calves’ performance. The system is not necessarily
interested in how well you feed the animals, rather how
well the animals performed for the feed available. Hence it
is “unfair” to compare sick calves with healthy ones.
“unfair” to compare animals given special preparation
show or sale with those that were not.
Why are good comparisons between progeny necessary?
Generally speaking, the more “fair” comparisons there
between progeny in your herd, the better the analysis can
rank these animals in your herd. Just as importantly, the
performance of the progeny is also a reflection on their
parents. Just as we rank the progeny within “fair”
comparisons, we also can rank the parents of those calves
based on the calf performance. The analysis combines the
rankings of the sires and dams from lots of “fair”
comparisons to better estimate the breeding values of the
calves, their parents, grand-parents, etc within your herd
and potentially across the whole data base.
What can I do?
Consider the following ideas to help improve the comparisons of
animals within your herd:
Try to have just one mating per year – or at least as few
possible. The more mating periods you have in a year, the
harder it is to get good comparisons between animals born
around the same time.
Restrict the mating period – the tighter
the mating period,
the more calves that are born around the same time which
can be directly compared. Animals are compared when
born within 60 day windows – the more comparison
windows in your herd the bigger the likely “pane” in
butt for the analysis.
Use at least 2 sires – direct comparison of progeny of
different sires is important. Consider using AI, particularly
in smaller herds where it may not be economical to have
more than one bull. Not only will this improve the
comparisons within your herd, but it will also improve the
comparison to other herds and while giving you access to
better genetics not generally affordable in a herd bull.
Record sire, dam, date of birth, sex, single/twin
If the calf is by embryo transfer, flag it as such and record
the recipient dam (tag, breed and year the recipient was
Record calving ease and birth weights whenever possible.
For performance data
Manage groups of animals together wherever possible and for as
long as possible.
Measure the whole group of animals on the same
Measure all the animals in the group – particularly
for scanning and scrotal (not just the sale bulls).
Try to get
at least 2 weights plus scanning and scrotal measures on the
whole group of animals prior to selecting show/sale animals.
If you need to sub group animals, use calf sex
as the first criteria (males are not directly compared to females
in the analysis anyway).
If you do treat animals differently, then
record this as a management group difference. Remember we want
fair comparisons within a group.
If you are giving extra feed to
sale animals, etc, then you must subgroup these from the other
animals not being fed. However, try to ensure you feed more than
one animal and preferably from a range of sires. Remember that
the progeny comparisons are also a reflection on the parents.
control the analysis of your data
The information you supply to
the Society determines how that information is analysed. By following
a few of the basic principles outlined above, you can help maximize
the usefulness of the data in the analysis and get better value
for your performance recording efforts.
In particular, reduce your
mating period, manage animals in as large a group as possible and
record all the traits on all the animals.
DON’T DELAY JOIN BREEDPLAN TODAY GREAT
FIGURES ATTRACT BUYERS
For further information on Breedplan, how to join,
please contact Barbara Webster on Telephone: 01738
622478 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the
Society office Telephone: 02476 696513/ Fax: 02476
696724 or email email@example.com