The Index Survey
Please click here to complete a short survey designed to identify member and producer priorities. Our goal is to develop an index that is relevant and valuable to our members and their customers. This means we need to include traits that are priorities to our members, and to all other sectors of the Canadian beef industry, in particular commercial Angus producers. In order for this index to be relevant we must weigh these traits appropriately. This survey is designed to help us do so. We appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey.
What are Indexes
Selection index EPDs are a weighted summation of EPDs for several relevant traits. Economic indexes use estimates of the economic value for each trait to determine its weight within the index. For example, a terminal index might include EPDs for average daily gain and carcass quality as these traits are the goal when breeding for terminal cattle. An all-purpose, or balanced index, will include terminal traits as well as maternal traits. Selection indexes offer several benefits over EPDs:
- They include all identified economically relevant traits, so producers are less likely to single trait select.
- They are just one number, so are easier to understand and apply into breeding programs.
- They allow producers to constrain or maintain antagonistic traits at the threshold while driving growth in other areas. For example, they allow you to select for calving ease while maintaining a minimum birth weight.
The American Angus Association, through Angus Genetics Inc (AGI), has provided its members with $ Value Index EPDs for almost a decade, with incredible adoption. These indexes were based on terminal cattle for different sectors of the industry. For example, $W was specifically designed for commercial producers who sell calves at weaning. $F was designed for the feedlot sector and $QG was based solely on expected carcass quality. The American Angus Association recognizes that these indexes have led to a significant increase in these traits, growth and carcass quality. However, maternal traits are of significant economic value and need to be included in the selection process. Therefore the American Angus Association contracted AbacusBio to redo their selection index EPDs. The American Angus Association expects to discontinue generating its current suite of selection index EPDs and launch a new Beef Value Index in June 2019. It will also launch a new Balanced Index (including both maternal and terminal traits) in June 2020.
Why is this important?
For the past decade your Canadian Angus Association has been asked many questions about why we didn’t have the same access to the indexes being used in the AAA. The $B has been widely adopted and used and it has become increasingly difficult for Canadian breeders to sell commercial bulls south of the border without providing comparable information. Our ability to include indexes will allow us to be more competitive and will open more opportunities for Canadian breeders in the US market.
Also, we have heard many complaints about the single-trait selection that has been taking place and animals being heavily marketed without taking into account other functional or economic traits. The development of indexes will bring in a more balanced approach to genetic breeding without taking away the ability for breeders still to work on the development and improvement of specific traits within their herd. Indexes will not promote the extremism of certain trait selection but also considers the negative impacts of pushing a performance or carcass trait too far.
In addition, these indexes will combine extremely well with ongoing projects and allow us to better incorporate and utilize the current research efforts in new traits. This research will be an important part of this project going forward, making greater leverage of already invested research dollars.
Who is Abacus BIO
AbacusBio is an international agri-science consultancy company, with offices in Dunedin, New Zealand and Edinburgh, United Kingdom. AbacusBio has expertise in breeding and genetics, and particularly in economic aspects of breeding programs. AbacusBio has models and knowledge to produce economic indexes which are compatible with the American Angus Association’s evaluation system, and has a good working relationship with AGI. AGI is developing systems to incorporate AbacusBio indexes, including non-linear components, into AGI evaluation and reporting systems. AbacusBio also has developed survey approaches which enable members and stakeholders to influence the development of selection indexes, while still basing the indexes on economic modelling approaches. AbacusBio is able to offer the Canadian Angus Association a substantial savings for the development of a Canadian selection index based on the work that they have already done for AGI. AbacusBio has done extensive market and economic survey of the Canadian beef industry in 2015–2016 for ALMA (Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency) so are familiar with our industry structure.
Our goal is to have complete transparency and member engagement throughout this process.
Our one-year project agreement with AbacusBio (April 2019–March 2020), entails a comprehensive survey of our membership, our commercial customers, and key stakeholders within the industry. Jason Archer, lead scientist at AbacusBio, will present the concept of Selection Index EPDs and the survey at the CAA Annual Convention 2019, sharing some of the results from the AAA survey. The survey will be distributed and open between June and July. The survey will drive and validate the economic modelling for the All Purpose or Balanced Index that will be generated for the Canadian Angus Association. This will be launched at Convention 2020. A terminal and maternal index will follow.
- Concept launch at Convention. Introduce the concept and opportunities of the index development.
- Engage our members. This is their index and we want their input on what the index will be composed of. There will be interviews with feedlots and packers and commercial breeders to gauge their needs from Angus genetics as well as part of this survey process to ensure across industry engagement.
- Development of index based on member feedback and launch in April 2020 as the target goal.