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Getting to Know SRUC: What is EGENES?

Published Wednesday, 12th June 2013 in Research news

Man at laptop

EGENES, or Edinburgh GENetic Evaluation Services, is a unit running with the Animal and Veterinary Science Research Group at SRUC which is based at the Roslin Institute Building.

It is run by Dr Mike Coffey with 4 full time staff - Dr Raphael Mrode, Dr Kirsty Moore, Tomasz Krzyzelewski and Karolina Kaseja.

What does EGENES do?

EGENES produces national genetic evaluations for all dairy cattle and sheep and for the UKs biggest beef breeds. This process uses performance and pedigree data recorded by farmers, breeders and other industry players. These data are combined; quality controlled and analysed to produce routine genetic evaluations, which are then fed back to the industry through various routes.

More recently EGENES has begun to use some key national data resources. For example, all cattle records are matched to British Cattle Movement Service details, resulting in a super pedigree file containing over 48 million animal records. Interestingly, by having access to all these data sources, we have been able to create animal records that don’t exist anywhere else – nearly 2 million male Holstein bull records with sires identified. The majority of these end up in abattoirs where carcass trait information is gathered leading to the possibility of beef indices on Holstein bulls.

What data does EGENES use?

Data comes from a wide variety of sources but predominantly dairy and beef bred societies (HUK, BASCO), milk recording organisations (CIS, NMR) plus British Cattle Movement Service, Northern Ireland and (for beef) abattoirs. With the information coming from a variety of sources and systems this can involve quite a lot of quality assurance work on data.  We are the only UK genetic evaluation centre accredited with the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) Quality Seal.

For example, dairy data is recorded by national milk recording agencies and pedigree breed societies, delivered every month as database dumps (entire copies of existing databases). We then process those multiple databases into one, ready for data extraction.

Until recently beef (and sheep) performance recording was the responsibility of the Signet company which used the database produced by BASCO (an organisation formed by three major sheep and cattle breed societies) to store all their information. Other pedigree breed societies using the same database shared records with Signet.

However, on April 1st 2013 the British Limousin Cattle Society took over performance recording for their own breed and EGENES wrote a web based recording system for them. Thus performance records are added to the BASCO database by Signet employees and farmers depending on the breed. The BASCO database is hosted by EGENES and every night a copy of the relevant data is dumped down ready for extraction the following day. During the season, we extract and evaluate over 100 times.

Who uses the output from EGENES?

Farmers, breeding companies and farm advisors use our output. Results we produce are sent to all data providers for dissemination to farmers through websites and printed journals. They also feature in the popular agricultural press. The farmer levy funding of EBV production means that results are freely available to all farmers without restriction. The usage of EBVs varies within each breed but is highest on the dairy sector.

Breeding companies use the results to both market their portfolio of bulls and to breed their next generation of bulls. Selection decisions are the same except that breeding companies have to be very aware of future markets to ensure their next generation of bulls meet future market requirements (often 7-10 years away).

What can EGENES do for me?

If you are a farmer then results are already freely available to you on the following websites:

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