Genetic Evaluation

From its very beginning, the science of genetic evaluation has been at the core of ASA’s very existence. In 1971, only 3 years after its inception, ASA published the industry’s first sire summary. Though crude by today’s standards, the event was the first of many significant accomplishments in the genetic evaluation arena for ASA.

Another notable advancement occurred in 1984, when Cornell University performed the industry’s first Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP; the methodology used to calculate EPDs) on ASA data. This feat ushered in a long and extremely fruitful collaboration between Cornell University and ASA. For over 20 years, Cornell geneticists Dick Quaas and John Pollak shepherded ASA’s genetic evaluation program, which churned out one seminal achievement after another.

Among the long list of Cornell/ASA achievements was the development of the industry’s first multi-breed genetic evaluation, the results of which were published in 1997. This was a water-shed event which, for the first time in history, allowed seedstock of all breeds and breed combinations to be directly compared for genetic merit. This technology established ASA as the leader in the valuation of composite seedstock. With many years of multi-breed genetic evaluation under our belt, the largest multi-breed database in the industry (6,000,000+ animals of all breeds and breed combinations) and an unyielding philosophy that crossbreeding is central to beef cattle production, the ASA continues to be the industry leader in this area.

To ratchet up our genetic evaluation capability, the ASA has teamed with USDA geneticist Mike MacNeil to develop $ indexes. The result of well-conceived, rigorous mathematical computation, $ indexes blend EPDs and economics to estimate an animal’s overall impact on profitability. Used extensively in the swine, poultry and diary industry for many years, $ indexes allow breeders and commercial cattle producers to make more accurate decisions than ever before when selecting seedstock.

Cutting edge-technology by itself does not guarantee progress—it must be used! Perhaps no other breed has made as much genetic progress as Simmental. Not only does Simmental deliver on their traditional strengths of maternal and growth traits, research by the USDA Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) has established Simmental as a leader among Continental breeds for direct and maternal calving ease, marbling and every measure of efficiency quantified at MARC. The MARC data are a testament to ASA members’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and use cutting-edge genetic evaluation to breed better cattle and better beef.