TSUs make DNA easier for triple busy CQ Brangus breeders

Juggling three large properties in Central Queensland makes time of the essence and efficiency essential, making the switch to tissue sampling units (TSUs) for DNA collection a no-brainer for Lindsay and Fiona Barlow of Triple B Brangus.

The business is headquarted at ‘Araluen’ 38kms north of Dingo in Central Queensland – a property of some 2875 hectares of developed country, hosting the stud breeding herd and bull development programs.

But the busy family also runs two other properties – ‘Namoi’, located 11klm south of Dingo, covers 2023ha of improved country and is the home for heifer development and maiden heifer joining, while ‘Glendarra’, 26km south of Dingo, features 5260ha of improved pastures and woodland and is the home of the Triple B commercial Brangus herd.

“We have now tried both hair and TSU samples for our DNA testing and have found the TSU samples much easier and faster to process when collecting samples,” Mrs Barlow said.

“So far we have had no test rejections or fails, and only having to supply Brangus Society IDs on test kits is much faster than the hair sample system which requires extra information.”

Currently the operation joins around 1200 females – 600 registered and 600 commercials – utilising a large percentage of bulls from the Triple B program.

These females are joined via artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET) and natural matings, and are pregnancy tested annually and culled on fertility.

“We produce between 180 to 200 bulls annually from a stud herd that is fully BREEDPLAN recorded. We now have two decades of data behind our Triple B product and it’s one of the most comprehensively recorded Brangus herds and on Brangus Group BREEDPLAN,” Mrs Barlow said.

The top 80 bulls are selected and marketed as rising two-year-olds at their annual on-property sale each October. Accompanying these bulls at auction are 200 purebred commercial heifers.

“We aim to produce an animal that is phenotypically attractive but also has the genotype we desire,” Mr Barlow said. “We are chasing a balance of above-average growth, high fertility, carcase and we do not negotiate on temperament and structure.”

DNA testing plays an important role in this selection process, with the Barlows testing for coat colour and the all-important horn/poll gene through Neogen, which operates Australia’s largest livestock genomic testing laboratory at Bundamba, Queensland.

Working in conjunction with industry bodies BREEDPLAN and Sheep Genetics, Neogen provides DNA testing for a range of genetic traits in both cattle and sheep, including parentage, horn-poll, heritable genetic defects, and productive traits such as growth rates, fat, and eating quality.

TSUs are Neogen’s preferred form for analysing DNA samples, as they are faster to process and deliver a higher rate of successful processing due to the superior sample quality.

The Barlows use their DNA test results in conjunction with visual assessment, EBVs (where available), raw scanned data and weights, as well as dam histories and information on other progeny of similar genetics.

“We are looking forward to the day when Brangus has a large enough dataset to incorporate genomic-enhanced EBVs,” Mr Barlow said. “We believe our clients deserve as much information as possible, so they can make decisions that reduce the risk of investment and give them more confidence in how the progeny of their purchase will perform.”

The Barlows’ test results have revealed a high percentage of their herd are Homozygous Poll and Homozygous Black.

“This is really important in giving our clients the confidence of knowing that they can select Homozygous Poll and Homozygous Black animals to suit their breeding objectives,” Mr Barlow said.

“We also sire verified the whole sale team this year which also gives the purchaser the ability to compare animals with confidence in their breeding.

“The ease of use of the TSU gives us more options in our breeding program and could lead to some females being joined in multi-sire groups instead of only using single sire matings. As the TSU makes it easier to test progeny to identify sires and can also be done at an earlier age then hair samples.”

The Barlows intend to continue DNA testing their herd in pursuit of a long-term goal of having their whole stud herd genomically tested for full parent verification, horn/poll and coat colour status, in order to provide their clients with as much information as possible.

Photo courtesy of Kent B Ward.