Alison Van Eenennaam | University of California, Davis

The application of genomics to improve the accuracy of EPDs is a rapidly developing field. There are ongoing improvements in genotyping and sequencing technologies, statistical methods to increase the correlation between genomic predictions and true genetic merit, and the computing systems to handle the large datasets associated with animal breeding. One thing still remains true in the genomic age and that is the need to collect accurate phenotypic records. It is essential to ensure performance data, pedigree, and DNA information are recorded and reported accurately. Genomic predictions will only be as reliable as the data upon which they are based.  Although it might seem like the genomics era could signal the end of performance recording, the opposite is true. Now more than ever, it is important that producers accurately report data, and ensure that animals which are genotyped are correctly identified so that their information can contribute towards improving the accuracy of the genomic predictions of the future.

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"Brown Bagger" electronic presentation a couple weeks ago. Bob's focus was on the changing landscape in the area of genetic evaluation and Larry talked about MARC's involvement in multi-breed and across breed comparisons. This is a highly recommended presentation for those interested in genetic evaluation.  Click here.

IGS: We Collaborate You Profit

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 11:14    |    Published  September 13, 2016
Chip Kemp, American Simmental Association

Every industry is riddled with examples of supposed experts missing the mark as they neglected to heed the voices of those they serve. Too often, those with the loudest megaphone attempt to explain what we should want as opposed to hearing what is truly desired or needed. Enter the Edsel, the Blimp, AOL, and the overwhelming majority of politicians.

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of leadership hubris? How do we ensure that customer voices are at the core of decision making? How do we balance the need for innovation with the ability to get novel products to gain traction in the marketplace? 

Humility and an intense interest in listening to and understanding the needs of business partners are crucial.  Agriculture at its very core is neighbors teaching neighbors how to make it greener, produce it healthier, grow it faster, or improve the taste. There are countless examples of successful firms engaging their business partners regarding new products, new approaches, and new directions. Your seed salesman, local coop, area veterinarian, regional sale barn are all forced to hear their customers and react accordingly. The feedback loop is quick, impactful, and brutal.

Other parts of our industry have been slower to seek input from commercial clients. One example is the area of Genetic Evaluation of Beef Cattle. The complexity of science, speed of innovation, overly-acronymed jargon are all reasons that well-intentioned folks sometimes isolate themselves and are slow to share findings and ideas with the end user. The historical breed association has been eager to report results, but less enthusiastic about incorporating commercial data or letting folks see behind the magic curtain of genetic analysis. Again, this isn’t necessarily an indication that associations were hiding or avoiding their obligation. Rather, in most cases it was a matter of limited personnel to share the message and limited scientific capability to incorporate commercial data.

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A New Era of Objective Selection

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 11:08


Alison Van Eenennaam | University of California, Davis

The application of genomics to improve the accuracy of EPDs is a rapidly developing field. There are ongoing improvements in genotyping and sequencing technologies, statistical methods to increase the correlation between genomic predictions and true genetic merit, and the computing systems to handle the large datasets associated with animal breeding. One thing still remains true in the genomic age and that is the need to collect accurate phenotypic records. It is essential to ensure performance data, pedigree, and DNA information are recorded and reported accurately. Genomic predictions will only be as reliable as the data upon which they are based.  Although it might seem like the genomics era could signal the end of performance recording, the opposite is true. Now more than ever, it is important that producers accurately report data, and ensure that animals which are genotyped are correctly identified so that their information can contribute towards improving the accuracy of the genomic predictions of the future.

Continue reading   |   Published March 14, 2016    |   

Cattle producers are always searching for answers to the question, “How do I improve my bottom line?” It’s a difficult question to answer, especially if, as a producer, you are making the decisions all on your own. The good news is there are organizations out there now that can off er cutting-edge tools to provide commercial producers with a wide range of data that focuses directly on the needs of the producer. International Genetic Solutions (IGS) is an unprecedented collaboration between progressive breed associations to enhance beef industry profitability. IGS is an outgrowth of listening to the commercial industry that began in 2010 when the American Simmental Association and the Red Angus Association of America came together to better support the profit goals of beef producers. Today, IGS is a collaboration of 12 progressive breed associations that have put self-interest aside to focus on the needs of the commercial cattle producer. These breed associations include: Red Angus, American Chianina, American Shorthorn, American Maine-Anjou, American Simmental, American Gelbvieh, Canadian Angus, Canadian Gelbvieh, Canadian Limousin, Canadian Simmental, Canadian Shorthorn and the North American Limousin Foundation. Will Townsend, Montana cattleman and Director of Commercial and Industry Operations with the American Simmental Association, is truly excited about what IGS is already doing for the cattle industry. “The goal is to promote good genetics and good breeding practices throughout the cattle industry,” says Townsend. “With over 16,000,000 total animals and 340,000+ new animals added annually, IGS has the largest multi-breed genetic evaluation system in the world and it gives commercial producers the tools to help them achieve the greatest profitability possible.” The goal of IGS is to provide genetics and genetic selection tools that maximize profit. This industry-leading partnership has made IGS the largest and most powerful genetic evaluation in the world. Its multi-breed capability is tailor-made for cattle producers who are serious about profit. The IGS and its collaborators have used science to develop the world’s most useful EPDs and profit-driven selection tools. This cooperation has allowed for unmatched research and industry-focused science. This large database and science-based research provides the best opportunity for commercial cattlemen to maximize profit through genetics.

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Mapping the MAZE through genetics, feeding and marketing options was the focus of upper Great Plains beef cattle producers during a seminar held October 28 in Mandan, North Dakota. The event was sponsored by the American Simmental Association, the American Red Angus Association, the American Gelbvieh Association and their North Dakota affiliates.

In an unprecedented alliance, the executive officers of three national breed associations joined together to share their expertise to assist commercial ranchers in finding maximum value in their cattle. .The concept of International Genetic Solutions (IGS) was presented by Wade Shafer, ASA CEO. The responsibilities of breed associations in the success of cow-calf operations was outlined by Myron Edelman, AGA CEO. Identifying the value of feeder cattle and achieving increased profitability was the final topic presented Tom Brink, RAAA CEO.

Commercial and seedstock producers took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions during a panel discussion at the conclusion of the collaborative meeting.


Why Collaborate . . . Why IGS?

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 09:19

“Alone we can do so little;
together we can do so much”
— Helen Keller

“In the long history of humankind
(and animal kind, too) those
who learned to collaborate
and improvise most effectively
have prevailed”
— Charles Darwin

We all can easily recognize that the preceding quotes speak volumes.  Nevertheless, in the breed association world, the level of collaboration has been somewhere between barely breathing and dead. That said, few if any commercial producers would disagree that our industry would be better served through increased levels of collaboration.  IGS is an outgrowth of listening to the commercial industry!

Unrivaled Database — Fueled by data from 12 progressive breed associations across the United States and Canada that combine for over 16 million total animal records with over 400,000 new animals added annually. Not only is the IGS database unmatched in size, but it’s also unsurpassed in quality as the vast majority of new records are derived from IGS partners who implement whole herd reporting.  Proven Genetic Evaluation System —Based on three decades of continually improving the genetic evaluation system to accurately account for heterosis and breed differences, the EPD calculation system employed by IGS is the nation’s most respected genetic solution software.  Simplified Selection Tools —While the process of calculating EPDs on the world’s largest multi-breed database is complex, the IGS partners have taken a revolutionary step by presenting the resulting EPDs on a common base; thus, allowing commercial producers to directly compare the genetic merit of animals regardless of breed composition.  Regardless if your breeding objective is to develop the next generation of purebred seedstock, or reaping the proven benefits of structured crossbreeding, IGS provides the industry’s most-reliable genetic solution tools to assist in achieving producers’ goals.

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The IGS Revolution

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 09:17

To maintain its leadership position, IGS is currently collaborating with world-renown geneticists from Theta Solutions LLC, in the development of what is soon to be the world’s most advanced genetic evaluation system.  Dubbed BOLT (Biometric Open Language Tools), this system will greatly enhance the beef industry’s ability to leverage genomic information, thereby accelerating genetic improvement at rates beyond currently possible.

The first IGS evaluation produced by BOLT is scheduled for 2016.  Watch for it!

A Beneficial Alliance

Thursday, 05 January 2017 09:15

An innovative, collaborative effort focuses on multi-breed genetic evaluation.

Article written by Emme Troendle, the Register

Dr. Wade Shafer,  Executive Vice President American Simmental Association
Dr. Wade Shafer, EVP, ASA

In 2010, the Red Angus Association of America and the American Simmental Association coalesced around the objective of better serving seedstock and commercial beef producers — the result was International Genetic Solutions (IGS). Today, IGS is a closely-knit collaboration of 12 progressive breed associations that have put self-interest aside to focus on the needs of the commercial producer.  With a current database of over 16 million animals and 340,000+ new animals being added annually, IGS has the largest genetic evaluation system for beef cattle in the world — a system that provides commercial producers with the most powerful and user-friendly selection tools that have ever existed.  “There is no question that you can accomplish more by working together. Nevertheless, in the breed association world, the level of collaboration has traditionally been somewhere between barely breathing and dead. That said, few if any commercial producers would disagree that our industry would be better served through increased levels of collaboration — IGS is an outgrowth of that sentiment,” stated Wade Shafer,  ASA’s CEO. Following are contributions provided by various IGS partners.


  IGS Partners contributing to this article

Bruce Holmquist, General Manager, Canadian Simmental Association

Bruce Holmquist
General Manager, Canadian Simmental Association

Kajal Devani

Kajal Devani
Breed Improvement Canadian Angus Association

Blake Nelson<br>Executive Vice President, American Maine Anjou Association

Blake Nelson
EVP, American Maine Anjou Association

Tessa Verbeek

Tessa Verbeek
General Manager, Canadian Limousin Association

Twig Marston
CEO, Red Angus Association of America

Myron Edelman, Executive Director, American Gelbvieh Association

Myron Edelman
Executive Director, American Gelbvieh Association

Mark Anderson
Executive Director
North American Limousin Foundation



What prompted you to become an IGS Partner?

Bruce Holmquist, General Manager, Canadian Simmental Association Canadian Simmental has a long history with ASA in providing a joint North-American Simmental Genetic Evaluation. The transition to becoming a part of IGS was a natural progression.

Blake Nelson, Executive Vice President, American Maine-Anjou Association

The concept of multi-breed collaboration for the enrichment of the beef industry was one of the key factors in our decision. With Maine-Anjou having an open herd book, the ability to formulate multi-breed epds is essential to our breed’s genetic progress. To have access to cutting edge genetic evaluation for the Maine-Anjou breed. The idea of a “common base” for breeds to be compared across the board was also very important.

Twig Marston, CEO, Red Angus Association of America

The Red Angus Association of America has always considered genetic evaluation a cornerstone of cattle production. With that emphasis on performance data collection, the Association continues to develop and employ the best genetic evaluation tools that are available. We believe that IGS with the cooperation of other beef breeds allows our members and more importantly our member’s customers the best genetic predictions for economically important traits.

Kajal Devani, Director of Breed Development, Canadian Angus Association

The Canadian Angus Association (CAA) has historically run their Red Angus genetic evaluations with our American counterparts the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA). When RAAA created a partnership with the American Simmental Association CAA became a partner as well.

Tessa Verbeek, General Manager, Canadian Limousin Association

The Canadian Limousin Association is committed to the commercial producer and the success of the entire beef industry. It was a logical decision for us to become an IGS partner in order to benefit the beef industry by providing our genetic material for evaluation.

Myron Edelman, Executive Director, American Gelbvieh Association

The AGA is pleased to be involved in the IGS partnership. It is the responsibility of industry organizations to provide the most accurate information possible in evaluating cattle and in turn deliver value and enhance the decision making process at each stage of the supply chain.

Mark Anderson, Executive Director, North American Limousin Foundation Collaboration.

The 12 breed associations who belong to IGS have put cattle producers, both seedstock and commercial, ahead of their own self interests. This has created a unified effort that best serves the beef industry at all levels of the production chain in the development of tools that determine profitability.


What are the primary benefits your association receives  from this partnership?


Benefits are building on the strengths of a huge amount of additional data as well as economies of scale in a larger more efficient entity. The resources that IGS provides through its technical and genetic improvement staff provides all partners tremendous value.

Devani Primarily

Canadian and American Red Angus breeders are motivated to have EPDs calculated on the same base and directly comparable for an easy evaluation and exchange of genetic across the border.


The ability for our data to be merged with the largest database of beef measurements ever assembled is significant. This leads to more accurate viable information that can be utilized for the genetic progress of our breed. IGS provides sound science with a progressive mindset that will keep the best tools available to our members. The “common base” enables cattleman to more readily compare the genetic value of cattle across different breeds. As an association it lets our breeders see not only the strengths that we can contribute to the beef genetic pool but also identify the shortcomings that we need to work on within the breed.


The Canadian Limousin Association is proud to be a partner in IGS as the this partnership allows us to be on the forefront of multi-breed genetic evaluations in North America.


The most important benefits the Red Angus Association of America receives are: A) accurate genetic predictions, B) EPDs and ERTs that are comparable between breeds without adjustments, C) timely information, D) the ability to use the most advanced technology, and E) the opportunity to collaborate with other breeds to produce synergy in genetic evaluation and other projects.


Cattle that are accompanied with data from an association participating in the multi-breed partnership have the advantage of across-breed comparable EPDs and accuracies calculated from the largest genetic evaluation in the world, which in turn expedites the decision making process and allows for breeding decisions to be more precise.


Being the largest multi-breed evaluation in the world with over 16 million animal records, IGS provides a genetic reach beyond what any of the participating breed associations could ever do alone. The “winner” in this is the commercial producers and seedstock providers who are serious about making genetic progress and increasing profitability in the beef business through genetic selection. As important, IGS has created a brain trust to develop selection tools for economically important traits, while simplifying the process for producers using these tools.

Is there reluctance on the part of your membership to join forces  with organizations that ordinarily might be considered competitors?


At times there may be misunderstanding or perhaps not fully realizing the benefits; however, once that is explained there has been no reluctance. We are all in the business of producing beef, and crossbreeding is a large part of that; especially in Canada.


The Red Angus Association of America members have been extremely patient. We understand the need for working together with other breeds to build critical mass and take advantage of technology. Our mindset is the real competitor in beef cattle production is the non-use of performance information, and the inability to make cattle selection decision without the best available genetic predictions.


Actually quite the opposite. AMMA membership looks at the IGS partnership as an opportunity to be part of a program that will help elevate all participating breeds within the scope of the entire beef industry.


Canadian Red Angus breeders welcome the opportunity to ‘competitively-cooperate’ for access to bigger markets and the betterment of the entire beef industry. As long as they feel that their genetics are being evaluated fairly and accurately, CAA members are supportive of all technical progress at all times.


Participating as a partner in the multi-breed genetic evaluation does not intensify the competition between the different breed associations as competitors, but rather accelerates genetic advancement and improves the competitive position of each partner within the beef industry.


The Canadian Limousin Association and our membership see that we can all benefit from collaboration when the betterment of the beef industry as a whole is in mind.


No. IGS provides the stage for direct across breed comparison of traits of economic importance allowing for commercial producers to make genetic selection rather than breed specific selection. The breeds belonging to IGS have checked their brands at the door in favor of the profit minded cattlemen and women, and entire beef industry.

What kind of impact do you see IGS having on the beef industry?


IGS will have a huge impact on the industry with the data and selection information it can provide back to the various partners; it is then up to the partners to add value to their customers programs. IGS manages the largest multi-breed database in the world and the opportunities that lay ahead are endless. We have the ability to provide the tools the beef industry as a whole requires to become more efficient, profitable and sustainable because of our collective efforts.


Genetic improvement, through more accurate genetic evaluations and access to technology that might be unattainable for Associations on an individual basis, has the potential to elevate the competitive status of beef in a world of many other protein options. CAA firmly believes that Red Angus breeders should use all the tools and technology available to them, in balance, to raise cattle with the best genetic potential for profitability and sustainability.


IGS enables a much quicker way to identify the genetic capability of an animal! Ultimately, we are in the animal protein business. Our competitors in the animal protein business (poultry,swine, etc..) have a much shorter generation interval; therefore they can more quickly recognize the good and bad in an animal. If IGS can help beef producers more efficiently predict these traits in our cattle and these genetics are infused into production then we as an industry can stay much more competitive and lead!


IGS gives the commercial producer a powerful tool to make more informed selection decisions based on more than just phenotypic evaluation. Multi-breed genetic evaluations will bring the beef industry to the next level in terms of productivity and profitability.


IGS has and will continue to grow its impact on the beef industry. First, it has shown the beef industry that breeds can work together toward a common goal. Second, it has shown that breed associations do listen to commercial producers. At a Beef Improvement Federation convention held a decade or so ago, a panel of commercial producer told the seedstock industry what they wanted. One of their biggest concerns was EPD without across breed adjustments. IGS is giving them what the wanted. In the future I believe IGS will provide producers with more accurate and more timely genetic predictions through the advancement of technology. Finally, IGS may become a mechanism that allows breed associations to come closer and closer together to tackle problems and find new business solutions.


The Multi-breed partnership has taken a leadership position in the global beef business. The advantages of delivering the most accurate information, comparable across breeds, are unlimited as more breed organizations from around the world contribute genetic information to the evaluation.


IGS has changed the landscape of breed associations and the role they play in the beef industry. IGS provides commercial producers with the most powerful multibreed genetic evaluation in the world. In combining resources and data as well as intellectual expertise, the impact has already been felt and will only grow as we move forward.


By Drs. Jackie Atkins, Lauren Hyde, and Wade Shafer

It’s here! The Spring 2017 evaluation includes a multi-breed Stay EPD using the much anticipated new genetic evaluation software, dubbed BOLT (Biometric Open Language Tools). The Stay EPD uses a random regression approach to predict stayability developed by Dr. Janusz Jamrozik and colleagues from the University of Guelph and the Canadian Simmental Association. Dr. Scott Speidel at Colorado State University, Dr. Bruce Golden (Theta Solutions), and the genetics team at International Genetic Solutions (IGS) (Lauren Hyde, Wade Shafer, Mahdi Saatchi, and Steve McGuire) worked together to incorporate the new methodology into the IGS evaluation. The new stayability evaluation includes data on animals of varying breed composition, directly incorporates genomic data, produces true accuracy values and provides Stay EPDs to all IGS partners on a common base. 

Features of the Multi-breed stayability with BOLT:

             1) Multi-breed stayability. As mentioned, the new Stay EPD is calculated for all cattle in the database (not just for purebred and fullblood Simmental, as it was in past evaluations). The calculation of EPDs in this fashion required the new evaluation to account for heterosis, which can be sizable for a trait like stayability.  Because stayability has a major impact on profit, having Stay EPDs on all cattle will substantially improve the ability of the All Purpose Index to predict differences in profit on hybrid and cattle of other breeds. 

             2) Direct incorporation of genomic data.  This evaluation represents the first time "Single Step" methodology has been used in the beef industry on a large database.  The innovative approach refers to DNA marker results being incorporated directly into the genetic evaluation, rather than being incorporated post evaluation or as a correlated trait.  Single Step is widely accepted as the most powerful means of leveraging DNA for genetic prediction.  The use of a Single Step approach on a large database (the largest in the beef industry) was made possible through the use of BOLT, ASA's revolutionary new software developed by researchers Dorian Garrick and Bruce Golden through Operation Quantum Leap.

             3) More "accurate" prediction of accuracy.  Prior to BOLT, the calculation of EPD accuracy was relegated to using indirect methods that were very imprecise, which commonly resulted in calculated accuracies being a poor estimate of the EPD's true accuracy, i.e., an EPD assigned a high accuracy may have truly been a low accuracy EPD and vice versa.  Until the development of BOLT, the direct calculation of accuracy was thought to be impossible on a large database due to computational limitations.  By leveraging statistical methodology unique to genetic evaluation and cutting-edge computer programming, BOLT calculates accuracy directly, thereby making it a much more "accurate" estimate of true accuracy.

Because the indirect methods used prior to BOLT tended to overestimate accuracy, you will notice that the accuracies associated with our new Stay EPDs will tend to be lower than the accuracies calculated in the prior evaluation of stayability. This does not mean that we are predicting stayability less accurately than we did in our previous evaluation--in fact, due to BOLT's ability to leverage phenotypes and genotypes more effectively we are actually predicting stayability with considerably more accuracy--it does mean that the published accuracy is now a better gauge of how much confidence you should have in an EPD. This fact will help seedstock and commercial producers better manage selection risk.

             4) Change in base.  Breeders will see significant movement in Stay EPDs from previous evaluations, not only because of improvements in methodology, but also because of a change in base.  However, changing the base does not affect the ranking of cattle; it simply shifts all EPDs up or down by the same increment.  For a point of reference, in the prior evaluation 21 was the average Stay EPD on purebred animals born over the last 2 years, where the average on the same animals is 11 under our new system.

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