It's been a strange week! Herefords Australia found themselves in the middle of an industry wide fist fig...I mean discussion on the value of genetic evaluation and linkages. As is usually the case, the research came from a place of good with the promise of economic gain, the carrot is a data set that would provide the Hereford breed with a significant gain in the commercial market......unfortunately, a snippet of data got out in the wrong way which turned a great research project into an internal fight rather than a long overdue discussion about the direction of the Hereford breed.
So, I thought I'd write a little on this topic to try and put the research objectives (as I understand them) into perspective and I hope everyone can read this without offence nor should anyone take any criticism from this topic....I stand for progress and efficiency and that cannot be acheived if we get stuck at bickering.
In 2016, Herefords Australia (HAL) made members aware that breed percentage would soon become part of genomic profiling on all stud sires. This revelation very quickly turned me into a swinging voter on how much I value preserving breed origins, since we're a polled herd I know deep down we're not running at 100% if you were to compare to the breed of early 1900's but on the same note, horns are a commercial deterrent, we don't have eye issues, prolapses are a thing of the past and we're seeing monetary gains through higher performing animals....so should I worry about an indiscretion that happened several generations back in a pedigree?
After spending more time than I care to admit pondering this subject, I realised I had completely misunderstood the purpose of this research, it wasn't about paddock indiscretions, it wasn't even about breed purity...what we were talking about here was economic gain through breed difference!
Sometimes, wording or terminology is everything and the outgoing CEO of Herefords Australia had it right, the correct term is indeed 'breed percentage'. Through this term we're not declaring a purity or accusing breeders of wrong doing, we're simply identifying genetic linkages to reference populations.
So, without judgement or accusation, lets have a hypothetical:
Let's say bull A tests with a 7% genetic linkage to another breeds reference population and bull B tests with 2%.....this information does not require in house fighting, it requires observation and consideration when calculating $indexes.
Within Herefords, the black baldy market is incredibly important so understanding and accounting for genetic difference between breeds can equate to a bump in heterosis for the commercial producer and isn't that the goal?
As I prepared to write this post, I revisited an article I wrote from 2015 called What's in a breed? and no matter where you sit on breed percentage as a term or concept, the logic in that article is sound... encouraging greater difference between breeds means more cream for commercial cross programs but it comes with a asterisk:
* Knowing the genetic linkages to reference populations will allow us to design animals that acheive maximum efficiency in any given market *
If the prospect of a tool set that assists in specific market selection doesn't get you excited about the direction of the Hereford breed then we all need to take a step back and remember what we were trying to produce in the first place...
Contributed by James Cullis