Keith Entwistle UNE Scholarship recipients

The Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) are proud to announce the 2021 recipients of the Keith Entwistle AM scholarship, awarded to two students studying at the University of New England.

This scholarship has been awarded by ABRI in the name of Keith Entwistle AM, who was a significant supporter of Australian’s beef industry through the reproductive physiology of tropical beef cattle and veterinary education.

Congratulations to Billie Standfield and Holly Miller, who are this years recipients!

To find out more visit: https://www.une.edu.au/…/keith-entwistle-une-scholarship

Image credit: University of New England 


Changes to the Selection Index Documentation

In recent months, the SBTS & TBTS extension teams, in conjunction with BREEDPLAN staff, have reviewed the BREEDPLAN tip sheets relating to selection indexes.
Two new general selection index tip sheets are now available in the Help Centre on the BREEDPLAN website. These are:

  1. An Introduction to Selection Indexes

This tip sheet introduces BreedObject selection indexes, outlines what selection indexes are available, and explains how to interpret selection indexes. It also provides a brief guide to using selection indexes in animal selection.

  1. A BREEDPLAN Guide to Animal Selection

This tip sheet provides both seedstock and commercial beef producers with a detailed best practice guide to using BREEEDPLAN information, alongside other selection tools, for animal selection. Advice on pre-sale preparation for bull buyers is also provided. 

In addition to reviewing the general selection index tip sheets, the team have also reviewed the breed specific selection index tip sheets. The previous ‘Interpreting Breed Selection Indexes’ tip sheet has been replaced with two new breed specific selection index tip sheets. These are now available in the Help Centre on the BREEDPLAN website, and are:

  1. Using Breed Selection Indexes

This tip sheet has been designed to provide your members, and their commercial clients, with a reference guide to help identify the selection index of most relevance to their production system(s). This tip sheet provides a brief guide to using the available breed society selection indexes in animal selection. An overview of each available breed society selection index is also provided (in dot point format for ease of comparison).

  1. Breed Selection Indexes: Technical Specifications

This tip sheet has been designed for those producers who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the technical specifications for each of the available selection indexes. This tip sheet provides an overview of the BreedObject selection index development process. The  blue profit driver graph, the red EBV weightings graph and the green predicted response graph for each selection index, as were available in the previous ‘Interpreting Breed Selection Index’ tip sheets.

With the release of these new BREEDPLAN tip sheets, it is recommended that you identify any links on your breed society website that need to be redirected. In addition, it is recommended that you link directly to the BREEDPLAN tip sheet, rather than host a local copy on your own server. This will ensure that any future updates to the tip sheets are automatically captured.
Should you have any questions, comments or feedback on the new BREEDPLAN tip sheets, please contact us and we will put you in touch with the relevant SBTS or TBTS Technical Officer, or staff at BREEDPLAN.

Hereford Group 1200-x-800px

International Evaluations

ABRI continues to develop the infrastructure for two international evaluations, one for the Hereford breed and the other for the Brahman breed.

The Hereford evaluation currently combines pedigree and performance data from Australia, NZ, the UK, Namibia, Canada, Uruguay, and Argentina. The first round of test results was presented at the World Hereford Congress in 2020. 

Given ABRI’s relationship with ICAR and Interbeef’s technical and working groups, the opportunity has now arisen for Hereford populations throughout Europe to contribute data to the International Hereford evaluation. This continues to be a priority R&D project undertaken by ABRI.

In relation to the Brahman breed, data from Australia, the USA, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe has also been combined for an International Brahman evaluation. Discussions are currently underway as to how best to report sire and bull EBVs using ABRI’s online services.

It is encouraging to see that ABRI continues to provide products and services that have an international reach and demand. Interested to know more? Chat to our friendly team today! 


BREEDPLAN’s Global Expansion

ABRI is now seeing a significant volume of genotyping coming through from our European and UK clients, in levels that exceed that of many of our middle tier domestic breeds. This represents an exciting time for ABRI, as potential opportunities throughout Europe arise.

Currently we are working with the National Association of Hungarian Charolais Cattle Breeders and the South Devon Herd Book Society in the UK to transition each to a Single-Step BREEDPLAN evaluation. Discussions are also underway with clients in South America and Southern Africa to collect and store genomic data for inclusion in their respective BREEDPLAN evaluations.

We continue to see growing interest for ABRI’s services, including BREEDPLAN genetic evaluations among beef breed associations throughout Europe. ABRI is working with representatives of Aberdeen Angus populations to receive data extracts for review, test BREEDPLAN evaluations, and provide the preliminary distribution of results using electronic and online options.

ABRI technical staff continue to engage with breed association boards and technical committees representing our international clients. We welcome the opportunity to provide a ‘try-before-you-buy’ approach to BREEDPLAN and ABRI services. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more. 


An Update on ILROnline

The ILR Support Team has been busy since their last update!
They have been supporting ILR2, transitioning more clients to the cloud, rolling out and adding yet more functionality to ILROnline, as well as rolling out our standardised DNA Module software.
They have also scheduled multiple new orders for ILROnline which will take them to 29 systems from 4 species across 5 countries by the end of the year!
New Functionality in ILROnline:
Associations subscribe to the standardised ILROnline system which is then configured and rolled out for that association.

Whilst the costs to your association remain relatively constant, the system itself is continually being developed and improved.

This means that you benefit from an evolving and constantly improving system without having to specifically pay for the new features.
The team are currently in the process of rolling out the following new ILROnline features:

  • ILROnline ‘Public Services’ – Designed to replace Internet Solutions with a configurable and superior web enquiry system for Animal and Member searching, Sale Catalogues and Mating Predictor.
  • DNA Laboratory Requests – Allowing members to order tests from genomic laboratories. Integrates seamlessly with the ILR2 DNA Module software.
  • Bulk Disposal processing – Allowing members to lookup multiple owned-animals and then update their Animal Status in bulk for easy inventory management.

  And don’t forget these important facts:

  • ILROnline will be scheduled and implemented for our breed association clients on a first-in, first-served, basis.
  • An essential prerequisite for ILROnline will be that your ILR2 systems have been transitioned to ABRI’s cloud server.
  • We will be concentrating on delivering all new ILR breed registry feature requests within ILROnline.
  • We will be concentrating on delivering all new DNA feature requests within the DNA Module software.
  • We will be progressively standardising our ILR software to maximise software development and support efficiencies, and to minimise breed association costs.
  • Our highly successful Internet Solutions web system will be progressively superseded by ILROnline’s superior functionality.

And don’t forget these available standard ILR software solutions:

  • ILROnline – ILROnline is designed to be a standardised suite of software. It will deliver a greater depth of functionality and services for the breed associations members and will be inclusive of an extensive set of association configurable parameters.
  • DNA Module – there is a consistency among all our breed association clients regarding their DNA requirements. Our ILR ‘DNA Module’ software recognises this consistency and provides a single suite of standard software to meet all DNA requirements.
  • ILR Transaction Extracts – we now have standard software that extracts debtor transactions from our ILR systems to our breed association client’s preferred accounting software package (eg. MYOB, Xero).

If you haven’t already, please review the ILROnline material available on our YouTube channel.

If you want to start your conversation about ILROnline, or have any questions, please contact the ILR Support Team.

SBTS news

Second Round of ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ Short Videos Released

The Southern Beef Technology Services (SBTS) and Tropical Beef Technology Services (TBTS) projects are pleased to announce the release today of seven short videos for the ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ video series. Ranging from three to six minutes in length, each video gives a short overview of the methods and considerations when recording performance information for BREEDPLAN traits. Today’s videos compliment the 12 ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ videos that were released in August 2020.

The seven videos released today are:

  1. Recording Mature Cow Weights
  2. Recording Docility Scores
  3. Recording Flight Time
  4. Recording Buffalo Fly Lesion Scores
  5. Recording Coat Scores
  6. Recording Tick Scores
  7. Recording Structural Soundness Information

SBTS Technical Officer, Catriona Millen, said that while there are a number of written resources on recording performance data for BREEDPLAN (e.g. the BREEDPLAN Tip Sheets), some people prefer to receive information via visual or audio means. “In developing the ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ videos, we wanted to provide a visual learning tool that will complement the existing written documentation”.

It is also anticipated that the ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ short videos will be of use to beef producers who wish to quickly refresh their knowledge around recording a particular trait. “Breeders may watch the relevant video before heading out to the yards to collect that trait,” she said.

All ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ short videos are available via:

  • The searchable Help Centre on the BREEDPLAN website, and,
  • A dedicated playlist on the SBTS & TBTS YouTube channel.

The SBTS & TBTS team wish to thank the following studs who provided photos and video footage for use in the ‘Recording for BREEDPLAN’ video series: Glendale Gelbvieh and Red Angus Stud, Gyranda Santa Gertrudis Stud, Seifert Belmont Reds, Vix Devons and Wirruna Poll Herefords.


ABRI Building

Half a Century of Big Data for Software Pioneer

A Big Data pioneer and licence-holder of the world’s most widely used livestock performance analysis software, the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) is celebrating 50 years of operation.

Established at the University of New England (UNE) by Arthur Rickards in 1970 (and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University ever since), ABRI has been an integral part of Australia’s beef cattle performance analysis program since 1972.

ABRI’s pioneering approach to digitisation of livestock performance records, which in 1972 became the basis of the BREEDPLAN recording program (launched in 1985) is now supporting livestock development in 15 countries.

ABRI’s work in digitising records and using the power of the computer for analysis was well ahead of its time. In 1972, computing was in its infancy. The Apollo spacecraft that first took men to the moon in 1969 – only a few years before ABRI started digitising livestock records – carried a computer guidance module that was about 100,000 times less powerful than a typical smartphone today.

“No-one else in the world has been doing what ABRI has been doing for 50 years,” said the Institute’s Managing Director, Hugh Nivison.

“ABRI software led the world in 1972, and it still leads now, even though we have much more competition. The work that was done for the beef industry 50 years ago built a platform for innovation and value that has revolutionised not just the cattle industry, but livestock industries across the world.”

Before BREEDPLAN, the only way to assess the worth of a bull was to look at it and make educated guesses about its traits, or to draw on a breeder’s hand-written records.

ABRI built a system that drew on objective measurements of how a bull’s offspring performed, then fed those measurements into a computer to build a comparison of how the calves thrown by a bull compared with the calves of all the other bulls in the database.

Farmers had been keeping their own similar records for centuries, but digitisation meant that many more records could be analysed, at a greater level of complexity. It was an example of “Big Data” analysis decades before the term Big Data was invented.

“At first, BREEDPLAN only allowed comparisons within a herd,” Mr Nivison said. “Then it expanded to allow comparisons across all animals within a breed, then across breeds, and now we run performance comparisons internationally.”

The more data used in a Big Data analysis, the more accurate the results. After 50 years of data collection, across millions of animals, across an ever-expanding list of traits, BREEDPLAN is working with billions of data points and delivering results that ABRI could only have dreamed about in 1972.

“We can now be very confident that those using the BREEDPLAN are delivering animals within known performance parameters,” Mr Nivison said.

“It’s a form of genetic engineering, except that it drives a managed evolution of livestock so that they express their traits in ways that are increasingly useful to humans.”

Big Data changing cattle A seedstock animal born in 1985 had an average genetic merit of $18.80 (an economic measure of a cow’s value per cow joined), whereas a seedstock animal born in 2019 had an average genetic merit of $88.20 (per cow joined, not adjusted for inflation). This equates to just under a $70 improvement in average genetic merit for Australian seedstock beef cattle since BREEDPLAN first started in 1985.

 An innovation platform built on data

The BREEDPLAN platform developed within ABRI has been used to underpin other pioneering initiatives.

The Animal Genetics Breeding Unit (AGBU), established at UNE in 1976 to support ABRI with research and development, took on development of the BREEDPLAN software (with ABRI as the licence holder) and has become a world leader in livestock genetics in its own right. AGBU’s work in genetic selection technologies has added an estimated $1.18 billion in value to the beef and sheep sectors, and the other animal and plant industries it works with.

Sheep Genetics, built on similar technology, works for the wool and sheepmeat industries as BREEDPLAN works for the beef industries. The multi-decade collaborations of the Beef and Sheep Cooperative Research Centres, which produced transformational livestock research, were in part made possible because of ABRI and AGBU.

ABRI also develops and distributes a number of other software packages, including programs for diary herd recording, export certification of livestock and most recently, equine event management.

The Institute was the invention of the late Arthur Rickards, who was Executive Officer of UNE’s Farm Management Service Centre from 1967.

Mr (later Dr) Rickards observed how the farming community was keen to adopt the new agricultural technologies being developed at UNE, but that an infrastructure gap prevented easy knowledge transfer between research and application.

Into this gap Mr Rickards placed ABRI, which opened for business at UNE on 1 July, 1970.

In 1972, ABRI was announced as the operator of Australia’s National Beef Recording Scheme (NBRS). At a speech given shortly before his death in 2019, Dr Rickards cheerfully admitted that it was preposterous that his three-person outfit should have been handed such immense responsibility.

Fifty years later, with the work of ABRI’s 70 employees underpinning Australia’s world-class beef industry, the decision to hand that responsibility to an upstart startup has withstood the test of time.

Credit: UNE Media.