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Advanced genetic evaluation tools and systems enabling faster and more valuable genetic gain in the red meat industries Final Report

Did you know, developments through this project have resulted in a seamless transition to the use of genomic data in the calculation of breeding values, for a greater range of traits supporting better breeding objectives?

Project start date: 31 July 2016
Project end date: 30 November 2021
Publication date: 11 August 2022
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grass-fed Cattle, Sheep
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (0.6 MB)


With livestock improvement entering the genomic era over the past decade, the evaluation systems required substantial upgrading to make use of this new source of information and capture the benefits of parallel industry investments in reference populations to support genomic selection. This new technology has allowed a much greater focus on improvement in breeding female efficiency and animal welfare traits to compliment long-term improvements already realised in production traits such as growth and carcase yield.


1. Computation of Estimated Breeding Values in the era of genomics and big data – faster and more frequent analyses, with more data included.
2. Productivity gains were made possible through new on- and off-farm traits in key areas including efficiency and reproduction of breeding females, survival and disease resistance, meat yield, retail meat quality, and consumer eating quality.
3. Maximising genetic gain through ongoing development of breeding objectives, integration of software for mating plans with genetic evaluation systems, and increased adoption through mentoring programs for genetics advisors and leading breeders.

Key findings

The main technical developments include substantial improvements made to the analytical software used in BREEDPLAN and Sheep Genetics to seamlessly combine pedigree, performance and genomic data. More efficient computing strategies provide the basis for the rapidly expanding use of genomics. Improved breeding objectives and new traits for sustainable production of higher quality products, and better methodology to optimise breeding program design were developed. The outcomes of the project mean that beef and sheep seedstock breeders have access to the best tools possible for genetic evaluation, and that BREEDPLAN and Sheep Genetics continue to be world class and to provide accurate and useful information to breeders, commercial producers and other sectors of red meat value chains.

Benefits to industry

The advances in genetic evaluation methods and tools made in this project have led to substantial increases in genetic gain across a range of industry breeding objectives for sheep and beef. These improvements have contributed to improved enterprise profitability and productivity gains for the red meat industries.

MLA action

Primary recommendations from the project include:

• Strong extension focused on exploiting the opportunities created: For bull and ram breeders, on topics including:

- Optimal investment in recording and/or genotyping.
- Strong understanding of breeding objectives.
- Optimising breeding program design to exploit genomics.

• For bull and ram users, on topics including:
- Strong understanding of breeding objectives.
- Using genetic strategies as a basis for longer-term value-based relationships with value chain partners.
- Using genomics to screen progeny to optimise alignment with management and market niches, aiming to minimise waste from use of “wrong” animals and to maximise profit generation.
• Development of traits focused on social license.
• Further development of methods to use data from all possible sources – genomic sequence, own and other breeds, all sectors of the value chain.
• Continuing development of knowledge and tools for optimising breeding program design.

Future research

Although much progress has been made, further enhancements to BREEDPLAN and Sheep Genetics provide additional opportunities. As the size of genomic databases expand beyond millions of animals genotyped, new methodology for analysis and data management and greater investment in computing capacity will be necessary. Also, the trait emphasis of the future will continue to shift from production to more focus on traits related to resilience, environmental impact and others which will ensure a future strong social license for sheep and beef farming in Australia.


For more information

Contact Project Manager: Peta Bradley