Breeders now have a more affordable option for genomically testing registered Angus cattle.

Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), the genetic services engine of the American Angus Association® announced today newly available low-density (LD) genomic tests that offer important data for incorporation into genomic-enhanced expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs) at nearly the same level of accuracy as high-density (HD) options.

Both AGI partner labs Zoetis and GeneSeek will offer the LD tests, available through Angus.org beginning June 17. GeneSeek will offer the GGP-LD for $45, and Zoetis will offer the i50K test for $47.

“This new low-density test, or LD option, is very similar to the products already available but at a lower cost, making genomic testing more animals feasible,” says Dr. Dan Moser, AGI president and Association director of performance programs. “For most animals, the LD test is a suitable option.”

Nearly equivalent accuracy levels for the low-density tests are possible, says Dr. Tonya Amen, AGI director of genetic services, due to a process called imputation.

“Since such a large number of Angus animals have now been tested with either HD 50K or GGP-HD, programs have been trained to read or interpret the markers not included in the LD tests, such that the results are nearly indistinguishable from HD,” Amen says.

In fact, if animals are tested on both platforms, AGI predicts the same results for 98% of the markers. This means that genomic values derived from the LD test will yield essentially no difference in the reported EPD accuracy compared to those with genomic data derived from HD tests, Amen adds.

Of course, HD tests will remain available.

“We’d like to see high-impact animals, important AI sires for example, continue to have the high-density tests. If they’re animals that are going to sire a lot of progeny into our database, it would be helpful if HD tests were conducted on those bulls,” Moser says.

To maintain the accuracy of the LD tests, some samples initially LD-tested may need to be upgraded to the HD tests.

“We’ll have a process whereby the Association upgrades the genomic test from an LD to an HD profile, usually with the same sample, for animals that later produce a significant number of calves recorded with the Association,” he says.

More affordable testing could mean producers test more animals — and that means more data incorporated into a growing database of genomic-enhanced EPDs. Both Amen and Moser say that strengthens AGI’s ability to provide selection tools that assist breeders in raising even better, more valuable cattle.

“We may see producers who traditionally would have tested only a fraction of their bull offering, test an entire group; or they may go deeper into their herd and test more females,” Moser says. “More animals tested across the breed means we’re better able to more quickly discover those unique outliers and make further genetic progress.”

Beginning June 17, both the GGP-LD and i50K tests will be available alongside HD testing options through the Association’s AAA Login service or at www.angus.org. More information about the LD testing option is available at www.angus.org, www.bifconference.com or in the July Angus Journal.