BREEDPLAN: Innovation in

Beef Cattle Genetics

Dr Robert Banks, Dr David Johnston, Dr Brad Walmsley

Australia's beef industry now generates over $7bn in sales on-farm each year, and a significant contribution to the industry growth over the last 4 decades has been steady genetic improvement. Achieving that improvement has been enabled by the development and implementation of BREEDPLAN, which delivers AGBU beef cattle genetics R&D output to breeds and breeders across Australia and internationally.

BREEDPLAN development began in the early 1980s, with development of novel BLUP software, an advanced statistical analysis that allows the separation of genetic from non-genetic factors affecting animal performance, and which enables genetic comparison of animals from different farms and regions, and from different years. The software has been steadily upgraded over the years, and now handles datasets of several million animals, including huge volumes of DNA data, on very fast delivery schedules.

AGBU scientists developed the BREEDPLAN software, and it is delivered to industry clients by the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), a controlled entity of UNE. ABRI has built a clientele including 28 breeds in Australia and a similar number overseas, and has in total over 200,000 new animals evaluated in Australia each year. More than 1,500 bull breeding studs across Australia utilise the BREEDPLAN service.

The power of the BREEDPLAN analysis has grown steadily through R&D. Initially, the analysis focussed on growth traits.  The analysis now includes:

  • a range of carcase merit traits, including muscling, fat cover, marbling and carcase yield;
  • fertility traits, including days to calving and age at puberty;
  • efficiency traits, including Net Feed Intake,
  • welfare-related traits, and
  • $Indexes - which combine the individual trait genetic information to describe animals' overall genetic merit for profit.

The BREEDPLAN "footprint" is well in excess of 50% of all calves born being sired by a bull with BREEDPLAN information, or whose sire has BREEDPLAN information. The genetic improvement which is enhanced by use of BREEDPLAN information is accelerating, delivering increasing benefits to the beef industry and the wider community in Australia and overseas.

The commercialisation model for BREEDPLAN brings together the R&D conducted by AGBU with the distribution networks developed and serviced by ABRI, with royalties generated through the commercialisation contributing to the ongoing R&D effort.