By Jackie Atkins, Ph.D.
International Genetic Solutions (IGS) partner organizations, representing 18.9 million beef cattle, gathered in Bozeman on October 22-24, 2019, for a meeting of the minds. Thirty guests including executive vice presidents, breed improvement staff and consultants, and the IGS Science Team, participated in meetings filled with big-picture discussions of the power of the IGS collaborative, ideas on how to continue to improve data collection and integration into the genetic evaluation, new ways to benefit from economies of scale within this group, and technical updates on the genetic evaluation. Ample time for brainstorming during the meetings led to tangible action items for future developments.
• The “why” behind IGS by Dr. Wade Shafer
• Advice to IGS and its partners for continued success by Dr. Matt Spangler
• Updates to the Genetic Evaluation since the first Launch of IGS Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT by Dr. Lauren Hyde
• New improvements and developments in genomics by Dr. Mahdi Saatchi
• Updates to growth trait predictions by Dr. Bruce Golden
• New bull lookup features by Ryan Boldt
• Educational awareness efforts for foot/leg assessment by Ryan Boldt
Wade Shafer gave a compelling presentation starting with a video of Simon Sinek’s TED talk entitled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. Sinek is the author of the book Start with Why about how successful companies build their business by starting with the “why” behind what they do instead of the “what”. Sinek talks about “the Golden Circle” with “why” as the bullseye, followed by “how” and the “what” is the outermost circle. Successful leaders and companies start in the center of the circle with “why”, then “how”, and finally “what”.
Shafer extrapolated the golden circle principle for IGS.
The “why”=Better serves the beef industry by more effectively leveraging our resource for genetic improvement.
The “how”=Leveraging data and technology through massive and unprecedented collaboration.
The “what” = The largest and most powerful beef cattle genetic evaluation in the world.
Shafer talked about an article in the May 6, 2017, issue of The Economist about data being the world’s most valuable resource. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft all have something in common with IGS. Data is our lifeblood. The IGS collaboration now has 18.9 million animals and over 230,000 genotypes from 17 different organizations. Not only is it the largest beef cattle database, but it also has a large amount of connectivity among the different organizations. Shafer shared a table of sires (see table) with progeny from more than one data source. IGS has more than 30,000 sires represented in at least two different databases and nearly 6 million progeny records from these sires. Three of these sires show up in 12 databases. This perfectly illustrates the power in pooling this information into one genetic evaluation and gaining the benefit of all that information instead of each association only using their own records.
Another way to illustrate the value of collaboration can be seen in this graphic. The total data in the IGS genetic evaluation is vastly more than any single association contributes. By pooling all the information into one genetic evaluation, all associations gain better genetic predictions than any could do alone.
The IGS advisory meeting further developed the synergy of sharing and learning from our partners in beef cattle genetic improvement. Talks from the science team, brainstorming among the partners, and bonding over meals proved a valuable and productive time for all. We are excited about what the future holds for this group.