by IBBA Registry Services Coordinator Tullina Wilson

Technology is continuously evolving within the beef industry. Technological advances are expanding into areas once believed to be unattainable. While these advances can be overwhelming at times, these tools, if used properly, can bring you closer to your goals as a producer. One of the technologies paving the way in breed improvement is DNA, or genomic testing.

The International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) in cooperation with Neogen (GeneSeek) and Zoetis offer a variety of affordable DNA testing options to meet the needs of each producer as economically as possible. Your goals as a producer should be evaluated to determine which tests may benefit your operation the most. Prices on some of the most popular DNA tests (GGP-uLD, i50K, etc.) will be dropping effective October 1, 2017. The decrease in price is partly due to the volume of samples we have received in the past three years for testing. Your diligent use of this outstanding technology positively impacts the National Cattle Evaluation that delivers our EPDs.

Genomic Enhanced EPDs (GE-EPD) are an added benefit available through genomic testing. GE-EPDs improve the accuracy of a younger animal’s EPDs, and offer enhanced EPDs to those in a single contemporary group. GE-EPDs are one of the most advanced options available to Brangus producers, providing producers a greater insight to the genetic merit of an animal. Combined with traditional data used in developing EPDs, GE-EPDs will continue to push the advancement of the Brangus breed.

Another benefit of DNA testing is parent verification, this is a great tool that validates the animal’s genetic identity. This simple tool benefits both producers and buyers by offering assurance on the accuracy of the animal’s pedigree. To parent verify an animal, both the sire and the dam must have DNA data available for use. Producers should begin by having samples taken on their herd sires and producing dams; this will provide the foundation needed for parent verifying future progeny. It is important to acknowledge that parent verification may be completed only if the progeny, sire and dam have data available.

The Brangus Portal provides a great tool to help producers manage their herd’s DNA profiles. Once logged into the Brangus Portal, on the left-hand side selecting “DNA Request” will provide you a list of all animals in your herd and which tests are currently on file for the animal and their parents. From this page, you may also select which tests you want to be completed and view the pricing of each test.

There are two types of DNA tests, SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) and STRs (Short Tandem Repeat). STRs and SNPs cannot be compared to each other for parent verification. SNPs provide a larger number of markers for parent verification, STRs should only be ordered as needed, based on the data available on the parents. For example, if an animal’s sire only has SNPs and the dam only has STRs available; both STRs and SNPs should be ordered on the progeny. SNPs will allow the progeny to be compared to the sire and STRs will provide the data necessary to compare to the dam.

SNPs are provided when the following tests are ordered: GGP-uHD 150K, GGP-LD Bovine 50K, GGP-uLD, i50K, HD 50K SNP Parentage (SeekSire). STRs are available through STR Parentage (GeneSeek).  GGP-uHD, GGP-LD Bovine 50K, i50K and HD 50K tests all provide the data necessary for Genomic Enhanced EPDs to be calculated.

Additional tests offered to producers are genetic conditions testing (DD, CA, AM, NH and OS), tenderness, coat color, horned/polled, and Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDPI). These tests are available for ordering through the Brangus Portal. Most of these can be added on to the previously mentioned products for a cost savings. However, higher standalone tests are available as well for each one.

As advocates for the Brangus breed it is our responsibility to continuously strive to improve the genetics and value of Brangus cattle. DNA testing provides an opportunity for producers to go beyond what is seen and supplies valuable data to help improve the Brangus breed.