Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) in working Dogs

I found this to be a very interesting article. Here is it in its' entirety and a Link at the end.
NEW research values the average working dog at about $40,000 over its life span – a more than five-fold return on investment.
But researchers suggest that return could be even higher if they can develop selection tools like estimated breeding values (EBVs) to help farmers reliably breed even better brown-collar workers.
The University of Sydney’s Farm Dog Survey found about one in five farm dogs failed to make the grade - and researchers tipped the 812 respondents may have even been underplaying it.
These non-performers were normally identified within 12 months but cost the same amount as good workers to develop in that time frame.
Dr Elizabeth Arnott, a vet working on the Farm Dog project, estimated the average dog cost farmers more than $1000 in their first year, regardless of whether they proved to be a good worker or not.
While top working dogs regularly make four figure sums, the survey found about 70 per cent of farmers spent less than $500 to buy a pup and the average cost was about $250.
Routine costs like food and worming averaged about $600 a year while vet expenses averaged about $100 a year.
Add in the cost of the farmer’s time spent training the dog – the survey indicated a reasonable estimate was 15 minutes four times a month in the first 12 months – and the tally jumped another $240.
(Researchers based costs on the assumption training took away from other tasks that might be then done by a farm worker who was paid $20/hour.)
“(In the case of an unsuccessful dog), that’s over $1000 on a dog that won’t ultimately be kept and contribute to the farm,” Dr Arnott told Monday’s Working Dog Alliance conference in Sydney.
She said this "wastage" needed to be factored in to the cost of the average dog that did make the grade.
It added about $273 to the cost of the average dog over its 10 year working life which totaled about $7763.
Assuming that dog might work four to six hours a day five days a week at least eight weeks of the year and was worth the equivalent of at least one human farm worker, the average dog was valued at about $40,000 over its lifetime.
While that was a huge return on investment – about $5.20 for every $1 invested – Dr Arnott said the obvious inefficiency was the cost of the unsuccessful dogs.
It’s why, she said, researchers were keen to work with industry to not only look at how environmental factors could influence performance but to make breeding of working dogs more predictable.
That will likely involve looking at tools like EBVs said fellow researcher Jonathan Early, whose PhD is looking at behavioural genetics in working dogs.
In Sweden, he said, researchers had been able to deliver huge genetic gains in hunting dogs by using EBVs and there was no reason similar gains couldn’t be achieved in working dog breeds in Australia.
“We’d see it as giving farmers and breeders an additional tool to make their decisions,” he said.
But developing such EBVs would take time – and as with any EBV system, initially offer low accuracy until a critical mass of data was achieved.
The more support they had from breeders and the more data was collected, the higher the accuracy would grow.
Key too, Dr Early said, would be designing a straightforward way to measure desirable – and undesirable – traits that made such data easy and quick to collect.
On the plus side, the farm dog survey had provided some solid baseline data on the traits most valued by farmers in dogs depending on their use – for example, the need for “force” in a yard dog.




Coop Co-op said...

So what happens to the dogs that mature late or have a inept owner/trainer? It seems like this research could do more harm than good because there are too many factors that play into the 'worth' of a good dog.

Coop Co-op said...
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