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Tracking Genetic Change Using EPDs

EPDs or Estimated Progeny Differences are used in many different livestock industries to speed up genetic change. There are schemes for alpacas in Australia and the USA and Alpaca World magazine understands that the British Alpaca Society are also considering such a scheme.
This article by Dr Mark Enns explores some of the changes in the American alpaca industry.

For breeding organisations, monitoring genetic change often provides an interesting and useful perspective on the animal population, revealing how the industry members perceive selection objectives and genetic improvement overall. Over time, genetic trends may reveal that many breeders have different goals for genetic improvement, while in other situations breeders may share a focused genetic goal.

No matter the scenario, population-wide genetic trends provide each breeder with perspective on their own selection program, as compared to the population in general. Often that knowledge enables the development of unique genetic improvement programs that fill niches within the overall population.

Another livestock industry provides a good example of how most breeders share common genetic goals, but where others use that knowledge to produce animals with genetic capabilities that aren’t mainstream. Because of these alternative perspectives and the unique genetic result, animals from these programs are often in high demand.

Consider the beef cattle industry, where the general genetic trend has been to select for larger, faster-growing
animals with higher meat yield, therefore increasing the saleable product for the general consumer market. Typically these animals require greater levels of input (e.g. feed). The trends for that majority seedstock industry show rapid genetic increases through use of expected progeny differences (EPD) in growth-related traits.

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