The Beef Shorthorn Society looks set to be one of the first if not the first beef cattle breed to introduce genomics in a bid to ensure more accurate estimated breeding values (EBVs) and enhanced returns for its members and commercial buyers.

While the Holstein breed has engaged in genomics for several years now, the move by the Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society (BSCS) and its members comes as they look towards implementation of a Single-Step Breedplan genetic evaluation.

Already, the Society database hosts more than 50,000 data points (SNPs) per genotype and more than 7000 animals with an SNP genotype recorded.

“SNP data adds extra information as to how individual animals are truly related at the DNA level as well as how the variation in performance observed among animals truly reflects underlying differences in the genome,” said Dr Brad Crook, of Breedplan.

The BSCS board has decided to provide a greater return on investment to members and has started discussions with Breedplan as to how SNP data can be included in the monthly genetic evaluation undertaken for Beef Shorthorn.

“Their goal is to use an enhanced model known as Single-Step Breedplan, whereby SNP data is combined with pedigree and performance data ‘in one step’,” said Dr. Crook.

This extra source of data provides vital information about the actual relationships among individuals and how specific genotypes relate to specific expressions of trait performance.

Alongside the breed's genetic ability to adapt to different climates, landscapes, and systems, the introduction of genotyping will present an opportunity to increase EBV accuracies to select the best animals for breeding from an earlier stage, giving breeders increased opportunity to make more informed decisions and speed up the rate of genetic gain within their herds.

According to Clive Brown, operations manager for the Beef Shorthorn Society, the introduction of genomic testing will potentially see the accuracy of some traits improve by as much as 25-30%, without additional cost to the breeder.

“Part of our long-term strategy is to help members make more accurate selection decisions and achieve greater rates of genetic gain in traits of economic relevance, the inclusion of genomics via single-step Breedplan will contribute even more towards achieving that goal.”

The society which boasts nearly 1100 members and ever-increasing registrations on an annual basis has DNA analysis on all bulls registered over the past six years. Although no genomic figures will be available for the bulls forward for sale at Stirling later this month, there will be such figures for bulls being sold from February onwards next year.

Beef Shorthorn breeders are also gearing up for the presentation of their National Herd Award, established in 2022 during the society’s bicentenary celebrations.

The event which is being run over an initial three-year period is this year being judged by David Dickie of the former Knockenjig herd.

Entries include the Chapelton, Podehole, Glebe Farm, Jodame, Meonhill, and Holkin herds, which all won their UK regional herds competitions in the autumn of 2022.