Accomplishing more together than we could individually is the reason 16 beef breeds, including Red Angus, are part of the genetic evaluation partnership operated by International Genetic Solutions (IGS). What started as a collaboration between Red Angus and Simmental in 2010, with the goal of creating the industry’s first multi-breed EPDs, has now grown to become the world’s largest genetic evaluation for beef cattle. Breed associations from the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are working together to create a huge database of cattle performance records and genotypic information, and to share the cost of using cutting-edge software and technology to calculate the most accurate EPDs possible. What IGS is doing today is so large and sophisticated, it was little more than a dream five years ago.
To offer just one example of how working with multiple breeds directly benefits Red Angus, Ryan Boldt, RAAA Director of Breed Improvement, recently calculated that available data on Red Angus-sired calving events (and their associated calving-ease scores) is 20% larger through IGS than if Red Angus was conducting its genetic evaluation as a single breed.
The overall IGS database currently contains pedigrees and performance records on more than 19 million animals. And even as impressive as that is, a more important feature is the continual addition of new data on younger animals that IGS-member breeds contribute on a weekly basis. Every genetic evaluation needs a constant flow of new phenotypic and genotypic data on the latest young sires, the latest calf crops and on new females coming into production (as well as on older animals). The IGS structure fulfills this need extremely well. During the calendar year 2019, birth weight records grew by 382,000 head, while the number of weaning weight records increased by 369,000. These large volumes of new data illustrate how substantial the IGS collaboration has become, and since more data is better than less, our resulting EPDs become increasingly accurate as a result.
We can rightly view the IGS genetic evaluation as a system that is constantly learning and getting smarter as new data is provided from each of the participating breeds. If a Gelbvieh/Balancer breeder from Missouri uses Red Angus for making Red Balancers, Red Angus EPDs are incrementally made more accurate upon the submission of this breeder’s data.
“Red Angus participates in IGS both because it is beneficial for our own breeders and for commercial cow-calf producers.”