About BreedObject and $Indexes

BreedObject is a tool for formalising breeding objectives and $Indexes that can help you breed more profitable cattle. It uses BREEDPLAN EBVs. It helps you target the type of commercial herd performance you need from animals for a given market production system, and it helps you identify seedstock that will be best suited to this. BreedObject $Indexes are intended for use by both stud and commercial beef producers.

BreedObject draws together the BREEDPLAN estimated breeding value (EBV) figures on bulls into a single EBV, the $Index, which describes how well bulls suit a particular purpose. If you are interested in more than one type of commercial production purpose, you will be interested in more than one $Index.

In 'BreedObject on the web', you can choose a $Index relevant to your production purpose from those available, or you can define your production purpose and develop your own $Index. This can also be done in more detail, if needed, by contacting us.

The BreedObject technology was developed by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), a joint venture of NSW Agriculture and the University of New England, with financial assistance from Meat and Livestock Australia. 'BreedObject on the web' is an AGBU-led project backed by a consortium that includes the Agricultural Business Research Institute, breed societies through the Performance Beef Breeders' Association, Meat and Livestock Australia and NSW Agriculture. The web development is by Hutchinson Software and AGBU. Support for the web development was provided by the Information Technology On-Line (ITOL) program of the Commonwealth Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

See Also:
How BreedObject Works, The Profit Target for Breeding, Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes, How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index, Developing Your Own $Index, Further Reading



How BreedObject Works

BreedObject is customisable to any commercial herd market production system of interest. For any given system targeted, a trait-level analysis of what affects profit is first performed. In a second step, BreedObject assesses what emphasis is then justified (to address the target) on the different BREEDPLAN EBVs that are available on animals. These differing emphases are reflected in the $Index value calculated for each animal.

Differences in the $Index values calculated describe how animals are expected to benefit production system profitability when production is for the described purpose. The $Index is an EBV for profit for this production purpose. Ranking seedstock on their $Index sorts them for their progeny's expected profitability for the targeted production system.

BreedObject $Indexes assess genetic potential for progeny performance. They tell you what to expect from progeny on average. They don't describe how bulls themselves will perform, for example during joining. Issues of structural and reproductive soundness need to be considered in the usual way. 'BreedObject on the web' also assists by providing you with easy access to all vendors so that you can discuss these and other matters.

See Also:
About BreedObject and $Indexes, The Profit Target for Breeding, Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes, How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index, Developing Your Own $Index, Further Reading



The Profit Target for Breeding

The commercial beef animal has to be profitable. It consequently makes sense that the factors which should guide trait emphasis in breeding are those which affect profit in the commercial production system. Ultimately, seedstock need to be able to produce commercial beef animals that can make money wherever it is that they are asked to perform.

This is of course nothing more than a recognition of the need for seedstock breeding to be 'market-driven', where the market in this case is the beef producer who buys bulls. Focusing on the needs of clients is the best way to ensure profits in seedstock breeding. In this, beef breeding is no different from other endeavours.

The beef producer who buys bulls even more obviously needs to be concerned with commercial production system profitability. Again, it is the factors which affect commercial production system profitability which should guide trait emphasis in bull choice. But whose profit, or what aspect of profit, are we talking of here ? Where ownership of progeny of bulls is retained all the way to slaughter, it is clear that it is profitability all of the way to slaughter that is of interest, involving both the cow herd and the calf during growth and finishing.

It is perhaps less obvious whose profit should be the target when calves change ownership one or more times between birth and finishing. For a bull buyer producing calves for sale as weaners, for example, it can be tempting to think that it is only the profitability of the cow herd that matters, including the calves only until their sale as weaners. This is short-term thinking. It ignores the need for calves to be suited to an eventual market, seeing this need as someone else's problem. Of course it isn't really someone else's problem, because the best way for weaner producers to ensure profits over the long haul is to consistently produce weaners that will be profitable for those who buy them.

There is thus considerable similarity in the profit target for breeding irrespective of whether this is viewed from the perspective of the bull breeder or from that of the beef producer buying bulls. In both cases it is profitability over the whole commercial production system that needs to be the target. Both profitability of the cow herd and that of the calf, from birth to slaughter, are involved. The genes for all of these aspects of performance are contained in every animal.

There are other factors that also contribute to differences in the aims of bull breeders and commercial bull buyers. However these will generally be less important than the main principle, illustrated here, that both bull breeders and commercial bull buyers need to focus on commercial production system profitability.

See Also:
About BreedObject and $Indexes, How BreedObject Works, Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes, How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index, Developing Your Own $Index, Further Reading



Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes

The 'BreedObject on the web' site provides access to a number of $Indexes for Australian market production systems of general relevance in particular breeds. At the time of writing, these $Indexes numbered 20. Each was developed at the request of individual breeds and with breed input. More information on these breed-level $Indexes can generally also be found through the relevant breed association/society websites.

Many of the breed-level $Indexes developed address straight-bred or cross-bred production systems where daughters are retained somewhere in the industry for breeding. In a smaller number of cases there are also $Indexes addressing systems where all progeny are finished for slaughter (ie. the visualised use of a bull, say, is as a terminal sire).

It is important to remember that a $Index value in one breed presently cannot be compared with a $Index value in another breed. $Indexes are like most other EBVs in that they cannot be compared across breeds.This is so even though the $Indexes of different breeds sometimes have quite similar names. Also like EBVs, $Index values can only be compared within the same $Index.

The quite similar names (eg.'Supermarket') of some of the $Indexes suggests they address similar market production systems in the different breeds. This is true for the market addressed, but other aspects of the production system can be quite different. The $Index developed for each breed is customised to the usual production system conditions applying for each breed. It takes account of the particular cow type that is usually joined, and of particular difficulties that may be encountered in each breed (eg.in finishing steer progeny, in calving difficulty, or in the fertility of daughters).

A further point to note is that the currently-available breed-level $Indexes, despite often having market-oriented names, are just as much concerned with costs of production as they are with market returns. Both costs and returns are considered, as they need to be, when the focus is commercial production system profitability.

See Also:
About BreedObject and $Indexes, How BreedObject Works, The Profit Target for Breeding, How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index, Developing Your Own $Index, Further Reading



How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index

In many breeds there are $Indexes already available which target average marget production systems for common uses of the breed. Since small differences in the characteristics of the market production system targeted may produce little difference in $Index ranking, these generally-available $Indexes are thought to be adequate for many situations. When, then, might you consider developing your own $Index ?

You should consider developing your own $Index when one or more of the following applies:

Your own $Indexes can be readily derived on-line for immediate application. They are easily saved, selected or de-selected for display, edited or deleted.

See Also:
About BreedObject and $Indexes, How BreedObject Works, The Profit Target for Breeding, Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes, Developing Your Own $Index, Further Reading



Developing Your Own $Index

Developing your own $Index is achieved in two stages. First, your knowledge is utilised to allow an assessment to be made of trait importance for the market production system you visualise. Once this is assessed, the $Index of EBVs that best targets this trait importance is determined.

The steps involved, and brief information on each, are as follows:

  1. Identification of the commercial market production system to be targeted

    This is the most important step. Your knowledge and ability to describe this system is the key to customising your Index. Think about how animals will be used, over what type of cows and in what environment, and what production levels, cost levels and prices are likely to apply. Then complete the short, multiple-choice on-line questionnaire. Aim to use estimates and levels that apply under good management; and which you think will be relevant into the future.

    Some other points to consider:

    • Bull breeders - focus on the commercial market production system/s of your main clients
    • Bull buyers - focus on the commercial market production to be addressed by your main class of sale animal (eg. steers)
    • In general, focus on the whole production system - from cow-calf production to finishing
    • Where it is difficult to decide between competing systems and/or views of the future, consider making separate cases. It can be helpful to see how animals rank for several purposes.

  2. Assessment of trait importance

    The information you provide through the questionnaire is used to assess the profit impacts that trait changes will have. These are examined using a detailed herd model. All traits that directly affect costs or returns are considered. The assessment for each trait assumes levels of the other traits are unchanged.

    The results on trait importance take account of both the assessed effect on profit and the amount of genetic variation available for change in a trait. These results are illustrated graphically, and are automatically available for your breeding objective.

  3. Construction of the best $Index

    Once the trait importance to be targeted is known, the $Index of available EBVs that best correlates with this is automatically constructed.

    This $Index takes account of the assessed economic importance of traits, of the genetic variation for and associations among traits, and of any other herd-specific information you were able to provide.

    Results on the % emphasis being applied on each EBV are illustrated graphically, and are automatically available for your $Index.

  4. Using your $Index

    Your $Index is immediately and automatically available for use on-line. The applications available are the same as those available to any other $Index. It can be applied to the EBVs of animals in your own herd, to help with selection, to the EBVs of published sires, or to the EBVs of animals in sale or semen catalogue listings to help with bull or semen purchase.

    Any $Index you derive is automatically added to the list of $Indexes that are available to you (see 'Choose another Index', from the 'Results' page). These $Indexes are easily selected or de-selected for display, and your $Indexes can be edited or deleted at any time.

See Also:
About BreedObject and $Indexes, How BreedObject Works, The Profit Target for Breeding, Development and Use of Breed-Level Indexes, How to Tell If You Need Your Own $Index, Further Reading



Further Reading

Selected BreedObject & related references:

Archer JA and Barwick SA (1999) Economic analysis of net feed intake in industry breeding schemes. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 13: 337-340.

Archer JA, Barwick SA and Graser HU (2004) Economic evaluation of beef cattle breeding schemes incorporating performance testing of young bulls for feed intake. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 44: 393-404.

Barwick SA (1993) B-OBJECT: a PC-program to derive economic weights for beef cattle. In 'Design of Livestock Breeding Programs'(Eds. Fewson D, James JW, Nitter G, Kinghorn BP, Barwick SA, Graser H-U, Savicky J.)(Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England: Armidale), Chapter 9.

Barwick SA (2002) Costing feed in selection: reconciling some differences in approach and revisiting issues for beef cattle selection. Proceedings of the 7th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 31: 273-276.

Barwick SA (2004) E-commerce solutions for the beef and lamb industries - Sourcing more profitable sires for specified production systems and markets. Final Report to the Commonwealth Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Information Technology On-Line Program), Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England, Armidale, August 2004, pp.76

Barwick SA (2010) Lifting beef industry productivity through genetic improvement - progress and challenges in a changing climate. Australian Farm Business Management Journal 7(2): 15-20.

Barwick SA, Davis GP, Graser H-U, Fuchs W, Burrow HM and Hammond K (1992) The value of reproduction and later weight criteria in selection in northern and southern Australian beef herds. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 10: 349-352.

Barwick SA and Graser HU (2001) Beef industry web site for sourcing more profitable sires for specified production systems and markets. Final Report to the Commonwealth Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (Information Technology On-Line Program), Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England, Armidale, May 2001, pp.85

Barwick SA, Fuchs W, Davis GP and Hammond K (1992) A breeding objective and selection index package for use with BREEDPLAN. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 10: 565-568.

Barwick SA and Graser H-U (2001) Achieving greater rates of genetic gain in the beef industry. In 'The Beef Program - Challenges and Future Directions' (Eds. Wilkins JF, Archer JA)(NSW Agriculture: Orange), pp 15-18.

Barwick SA, Graser H-U and Archer JA (1999) Recording new beef performance measures - effects on the accuracy of selection for profitability. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 13 : 203-206.

Barwick SA, Graser HU, Jeyaruban MG, Johnston DJ and Wolcott ML (2010) Review of potential investment into recording feed efficiency in beef cattle. Project B.BFG.0050 Report to Meat and Livestock Australia, Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England, Armidale, June 2010, pp.38

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (1997) The economic value of marbling and consequences for beef breeding objectives. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 12: 490-494.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (1997) BreedObject: The selection tool for use with BREEDPLAN. In 'Conference Proceedings for the BREEDPLAN Expo' (National Beef Recording Scheme & New Englang Agricultural Secretariat Pty Ltd: Armidale), pp 27-28.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (1998) BreedObject: a breeding objective and indexing aid for beef breeding. In 'Beef - The Path Forward' (Eds. Wilkins JF, McKiernan WJ)(NSW Agriculture: Orange), pp 61-62.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (1998) BreedObject: Breeding objective and indexing software for beef breeding. Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 27: 445-446.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (1999) Assessing the value of improved marbling in beef breeding objectives and selection. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50: 503-512.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (2003) Assessing trait economic impacts at the level of the individual animals considered in selection. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 15: 347-350.

Barwick SA and Henzell AL (2005) Development successes and issues for the future in deriving and applying selection indexes for beef breeding.  Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45: 923-933.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL and Goddard ME (1995) Beef breeding for cow fertility: when is it important ? Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 11: 443-446.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL and Graser H-U (1994) Developments in the construction and use of selection indexes for genetic evaluation of beef cattle in Australia. Proceedings of the 5th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 18: 227-230.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL and Graser H-U (1998) Beef breeding objectives: examples and implications for genetic evaluation and breeding programs. Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 26: 151-154.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL and Graser H-U (2001) Selection for calving ease jointly with other profit traits in beef cattle. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 14: 361-364.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL, Graser H-U, Upton WH, Johnston DJ, Allen J, Sundstrom B and Goddard ME (1997) 'BREEDOBJECT Training and Accreditation School Handbook', revised 1997 (Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England: Armidale).

Barwick SA, Henzell AL and McCann AR (2007) Evaluating Australian bulls on indexes of other countries and international bulls on Australian indexes. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 17: 521-524.

Barwick SA, Henzell AL, McCann AR and Allen J. (2007) A facility to assist international trade in seedstock. In 'Proceedings of NSW DPI Beef Industry Conference - Adapting to the Changing Environment' (Ed. Blackwood I.), Hawk's Nest, March 2007 (NSW Department of Primary Industries: Orange), pp.3

Barwick SA, Henzell AL, Upton WH and Graser H-U (2001) 'BreedObject on the web': a catalyst for wider adoption of selection indexes in the beef industry. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 14: 453-456.

Barwick SA, Jeyaruban MG, Johnston DJ, Wolcott ML and Graser HU (2011) The impacts on selection for economic merit of including residual feed intake traits in breeding objectives and of having records available. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 19: 43-46.

Barwick SA and Johnston DJ (2003) Assessment of the relative economic value of feed intake in northern Australian production systems. In 'The Beef Products Program, Technology - Our Future' (Ed. Wilkins JF)(NSW Agriculture: Orange), pp 127-129.

Barwick SA, Johnston DJ and Graser H-U (1998) Providing the tools to breed more profitable cattle. In 'Beef - The Path Forward' (Eds. Wilkins JF, McKiernan WJ)(NSW Agriculture: Orange), pp 199-202.

Barwick SA, Swan AA, Hermesch S. and Graser HU (2011) Experience in breeding objectives for beef cattle, sheep and pigs, new developments and future needs. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 19: 23-30.

Barwick SA and Upton WH (2004) $Indexes as aids to selection in beef breeding. In 'Proceedings of Meat and Livestock Australia Conference - Beef Genetics Horizons', Hamilton, Vic (Meat and Livestock Australia), pp.7

Barwick SA and Yeates AP (1997) Using BREEDOBJECT in industry to help breed more profitable cattle. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics 12: 769-773.

Barwick Stephen and Fuchs Willi (1992) Breeding objectives for beef cattle. In 'Animal Breeding-The Modern Approach'(Eds. Hammond K, Graser H-U, McDonald CA)(Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science: University of Sydney), Chapter 14, 141-154.

Barwick Steve (1997) Principles behind the establishment of breeding objectives and selection indexes. In 'BREEDOBJECT Training and Accreditation School Handbook (Revised 1997)'(Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, University of New England: Armidale), pp 6-10.

Barwick Steve (2001) Exploiting breed and within breed differences for profitability. In 'Proceedings of the 7th National Conference of the Beef Improvement Association of Australia Ltd' (Beef Improvement Association of Australia: Albury), pp 39-43.

Graser HU, Tier B, Johnston DJ and Barwick SA (2005) Genetic evaluation for the beef industry in Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45: 913-921.

Kahi AK, Barwick SA and Graser HU (2003) Economic evaluation of Hereford cattle breeding schemes incorporating direct and indirect measures of feed intake. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54: 1039-1055.

Nicol DC and Barwick SA (1995) A young bull proving scheme for Australian Angus. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 11: 238-241.

Ponzoni RW, Atkins KD, Barwick SA and Newman S (1998) Taking breeding objective theory to application: experiences with the programs 'Object' and 'BreedObject'. Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 25: 375-378.

Schneeberger M, Barwick SA, Crow GH and Hammond K (1992) Economic indices using breeding values predicted by BLUP. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 109: 180-187.

Upton WH, McArthur ATG and Farquharson RJ (1988) Economic values applied to breeding objectives: a decentralised approach for BREEDPLAN. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 7: 95-104.

Some other relevant references:

Allaire FR (1980) Mate selection by selection index theory. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 57: 267-272.

Amer PR and Fox GC (1992) Estimation of economic weights in genetic improvement using neoclassical production theory: an alternative to rescaling. Animal Production 54: 341-350.

Barlow R (1987) An introduction to breeding objectives for livestock. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 6: 162-169.

Barwick SA and Hammond K (1990) Apportioning emphasis between the seed-stock producer and user in establishing the breeding objective. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 8: 79-84.

Barwick Stephen (1992) Introducing economics to modern animal breeding. In 'Animal Breeding-The Modern Approach'(Eds. Hammond K, Graser H-U, McDonald CA)(Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science: University of Sydney), Chapter 13, 121-140.

Bourdon RD and Newman S (Eds) (1997) 'Proceedings BIF Systems Workshop II: Multiple-Trait Selection Technology for North American Beef Production' (Beef Improvement Federation: Estes Park, Colorado)

Brascamp EW, Groen AF, de Boer IJM and Udo H (1998) The effect of environmental factors on breeding goals. Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 27: 129-136.

Brascamp EW, Smith C and Guy DR (1985) Derivation of economic weights from profit functions. Animal Production 40: 175-179.

Dekkers JCM, Birke PV and Gibson JP (1994) Multiple generation selection for nonlinear profit functions. Proceedings of the 5th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production 18: 209-212.

Gibson JP and Kennedy BW (1990) The use of constrained selection indexes in breeding for economic merit. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 80: 801-805.

Goddard ME (1983) Selection indices for non-linear profit functions. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 64: 339-344.

Groen AF (1989) Economic values in cattle breeding I. Influence of production circumstances in situations without output limitations. Livestock Production Science 22: 1-16.

Harris DL (1970) Breeding efficiency in livestock production - defining the economic objective. Journal of Animal Science ,b>30: 860-865.

Hazel LN (1943) The genetic basis for constructing selection indexes. Genetics 28: 476-490.

James JW (1978) Index selection for both current and future generation gains. Animal Production 26: 111-118.

McArthur ATG (1987) Weighting breeding objectives - an economic approach. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 6: 179-187.

McArthur ATG and del Bosque Gonzalez AS (1990) Adjustment of annual economic values for time. Proceedings of the Australian Association of Animal Breeding and Genetics 8: 103-109.

McClintock AE and Cunningham EP (1974) Selection in dual purpose cattle populations: defining the breeding objective. Animal Production 18: 237-247.

Ponzoni RW and Newman S (1989) Developing breeding objectives for Australian beef cattle production. Animal Production 49: 35-47.

Weller JI, Pasternak H and Groen AF (1996) Selection indices for non- linear breeding objectives, selection for optima. In 'Proceedings of the International Workshop on Genetic Improvement of Functional Traits in Cattle'. Gembloux, Belgium (Interbull: Uppsala, Sweden) pp 206-213.