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Reach for the stars with completeness of performance

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

BREEDPLAN’s ‘completeness of performance’ evaluation system is designed to assess the completeness of pedigree and performance information submitted by individual stud breeders.

While the accuracy of estimated breeding values (EBVs) provides an indication of the reliability of an animal’s EBVs, a key factor underpinning this is the amount of performance information submitted to BREEDPLAN in respect of the animal. The completeness of performance star rating therefore provides both stud breeders and commercial producers alike with an assessment of how much performance information for animals bred within a herd, has been submitted to BREEDPLAN.

Star ratings

The star rating for each herd is calculated based on the proportion of calves in the herd, born within a fixed five-year period, for which performance records have been captured in respect of each trait. Although every breed society uses different criteria, each herd receives a star rating between zero and five (including half stars) that summarises the ‘completeness’ of that herd’s performance information.

The highest star rating is five – the gold standard. Herds with a five-star rating record capture performance information for all traits for which EBVs are available.

A four- to 4,5-star rating is the silver standard. These herds are considered to be recording comprehensive performance information for most animals and traits for which EBVs are available, but are capturing less performance information than a five-star herd.

Herds with a star rating of three or 3,5 are considered the bronze standard. They are regarded as capturing performance information for a reasonable number of animals and a reasonable number of traits per animal, but less than a four- or 4,5-star herd.

Herds with a rating of 2,5 or less are recording information with BREEDPLAN, but not for all animals in the herd or for all traits. They are recording less performance information than a three-, four- or five-star herd.

Performance data

According to Izaan du Plooy, technical officer at the Livestock Registering Federation (LRF), performance data is the backbone of any genetic evaluation – whether BLUP (best linear unbiased prediction) or genomic evaluation. Therefore, the more complete the data, the more accurate the estimated breeding values will be.

On the one hand, ‘completeness’ refers to the completeness of an individual animal’s information, such as birth, wean and annual weights, fertility traits, feed efficiency and carcass traits. On the other hand, completeness relates to the number of animals for which performance traits are recorded. This prevents breeders from only submitting data that paints herds in a positive light while withholding the ‘inferior’ data.

Completeness of performance

“The LRF’s annual completeness of performance awards,” she says, “is an incentive for breeders to take these two aspects seriously and record complete data. The criteria and points awarded differ from breed society to breed society, but everyone must meet certain fundamental criteria.”

The first of these is each animal’s basic information such as its identification, its dam and sire, artificial insemination (AI) dates, and information relating to recipient cows in the case of embryo transfers.

The next criterion relates to the recording of weights at specific ages, and the third to fertility traits (scrotum circumference in bulls and days to calving in females). There are also criteria for carcass traits and traits that express feed efficiency.

“The accuracy of this information,” she emphasises, “determines the reliability of the breeding values calculated for each animal. This, in turn, has a direct impact on the reliability of the management decisions the breeder takes to improve his or her herd.”

For example, on the surface two bulls appear to have the potential of achieving specific breeding goals in a herd. The accuracy of the first bull’s breeding values is high while it is lower for the second one. If the breeder were to use the second bull, there is a greater chance of the breeder not achieving his or her breeding goals.

Two elements

The completeness of performance report has two elements. Firstly, the star rating indicates the amount of pedigree and performance records submitted with BREEDPLAN in respect of a herd. The star rating constitutes an average rating awarded over a period of five years and is updated every year in July, after the BREEDPLAN evaluation.

The second element is the completeness of performance herd report that allows the breeder to review the data submitted to BREEDPLAN. Breeders are advised to regularly check the completeness of their performance reports to ensure there are no gaps in the information due to clerical errors. Furthermore, breeders can identify the traits they are currently not recording, but may want to record in future.

The completeness of performance report was recently adjusted to include carcass quality data from abattoirs. The carcass evaluation criterion used to rely on scan data regarding eye-muscle area collected from live animals, as well as rib, rump and intramuscular fat. This has been expanded to also include readings for carcass weight, marbling, eye-muscle area, as well as rib and rump fat measured physically on the carcass in the abattoir. – Izak Hofmeyr, Plaas Media

For more information, email Izaan du Plooy at izaan@lrf.co.za.

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