Animal Recording: The importance of correct procedures

Animal breeding and recording has come a long way since the formation of the first Breeding Societies around the 1760’s, when the first recordings, based on pedigree information, commenced. It was during that time that the British livestock industry gained momentum and Robert Blakewell coined the phrases “breed the best to the best” and “like begets like”. This coincides with the start of the era of livestock improvement, the recognition of the purebred British breeds, British colonial expansion and the export of British breeds across the world. The British Isles were known as the stud farm of the world, a title it claimed till the middle of the 1950s, when it lost it, due to progressive breeders in other countries, adopting and implementing modern breeding technologies.

Recording of pedigrees was the first form of recording and dates back to the 1760s with the formation of Breeding Societies. Some breeds, such as the Arab Horse, can trace some of its Bloodlines back, even later.

The South African Studbook and Livestock Improvement Association, as it is known today, was established in 1905 with the purpose of registering purebred livestock in South Africa, and later South-West Africa, today called Namibia, issuing Studbook Certificates and to publish the S.A. Studbook. Today it has a membership of more than 8 000 stud breeders.

South Africa followed the example of the U.S.A., and on 4 December 1959 established the first National Beef Performance Testing Scheme, the first outside of the U.S.A. This was followed by the National Milk Recording Scheme in 1975. National Small Stock Performance Testing Scheme was established during 1964 as the Fleece Testing Centre at Grootfontein in the Eastern Cape, which can be subdivided into the Wooled Sheel Performance Testing Scheme(WSPTS) and the Mutton Sheep and Goat Performance Testing Scheme.

The National Beef Cattle Performance Testing Scheme was established in Namibia during 1968. Namibian stud breeders registered their animals with SA Studbook until 1992. With Independence in 1990 the Livestock Improvement Act (Act 25 of 1977), was amended to provide for the establishment of autonomous breeders societies in Namibia and the issuing of registration certificates. On the 23 January 1992, the Namibian Stud Breeders Association (NSBA) was established with representatives of 16 breeds present. During 2004 the NSBA signed a contract with Breedplan, and has since been using this programme and currently represents approximately 700 breeders of 38 breeds (cattle, sheep, goats, horses and dogs owning 70 000 animals (NSBA 2018)

The first Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) breeding values for growth traits were produced in the U.S.A. during the late 1970’s/early 1980s. In South Africa the first BLUP breeding values were published during 1995. Today a large array of EBV’s are published.

The evolution of DNA Technologies revolutionised the breeding industry. During 1989 the first genetic marker for marbling was developed, and was released during 2000. It became known as the GENESTAR tests. The results were reported as stars, representing the presence or absence of an advantageous marbling DNA Marker. During 2005 a further 2 marbling and 4 tenderness markers were added to the list of available tests. During 2006 4 DNA markers for Feed Efficiency became available and were incorporated into the GENESTAR test results. In 2009 the 56K DNA Marker “chip” was released for commercial use.

During 2010 the GENESTAR notation was replaced with the Molecular Value Predictions (MVP’s), which pioneered a new age in genomic testing. The results are reported as values, relative to a breed value. Today a wide array of “chips” are commercially available.

The late Prof Jan Bonsma coined the phrase; “ To measure is to know”. If something is not measured, how can statements be made and conclusions drawn? Does that mean that data can be randomly collected and will have any real meaning? Unfortunately not, for as the saying in the computer industry goes; “Garbage in – garbage out!” or “You only get out of something what you put into it.” This is particularly true regarding performance recording, especially for genetic evaluation, in terms of both the volume and the quality of the data recorded.

Read the full article in our Brahman Journal here.

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