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Now is the time for leading breeders to DNA test

Thursday 22nd of October 2015
Marg Shedden & Bec Macarthur Onslow at the Sheep Genomics Office, Armidale, NSW
Marg Shedden & Bec Macarthur Onslow at the Sheep Genomics Office, Armidale, NSW

With lambs now on the ground in many sheep breeding areas, now is the time to quickly and accurately identify those with superior genetics through the use of DNA testing.

Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) chief executive James Rowe says the industry’s leading breeders are already obtaining value from the DNA tests, with more than 2400 genomic tests undertaken by ram breeders since July last year, and he is encouraging more sheep breeders to follow suit.

“Accurate genetic selection is a cornerstone for high-performance flocks and by DNA testing the top 20 percent of your ram lamb drop, you can add 10-15 percent to the rate of genetic gain in a Merino ram breeding enterprise,” Prof. Rowe said.

“In the Terminal breeds the traits creating most interest from the DNA tests are in the areas of meat eating quality (intramuscular fat and shear force) and lean meat yield.

“When combined with management changes such as ram lamb mating in Merinos, the increase in rate of genetic gain can be up to 25 percent.”

According to Sheep CRC research conducting genotype testing on just 20 percent of the ram drop will deliver more than 80 percent of the potential gain on offer.

Prof Rowe said it was not a coincidence that studs that consistently rank at or near the top of lists in the RamSelect.com.au app, were those that invested in DNA tests to be able to improve the accuracy of breeding values and faster genetic gain.

"Good pedigree information is very useful in identifying the animals for full genomic testing – whether this is done using conventional mothering up, Pedigree Matchmaker or the DNA Parentage & Poll test,” he said.

"With good pedigree data breeders can use mid-parent breeding values as well as direct measurement and visual inspection to select the top 20 percent of lambs for genotyping.”

The Parentage & Poll Test is proving incredibly popular with commercial breeders, with almost 21,000 tests used since July last year. Prof. Rowe said now was the time for these breeders to take their DNA testing to the next level.

"The Sheep Genomic Test on the top 20 percent of the drop will help them identify the lambs carrying the specific traits they require to achieve faster genetic gains – particularly for those traits that are not detectable to the human eye."

The Sheep Genomic Test (sometimes referred to by researchers as the 12k or LD test) provides information on genetic merit of animals for a range of traits, including those which are hard to measure such as worm egg count in a dry environment; or cannot be measured until late in life, such as adult wool traits; or even post-slaughter traits like eating quality and tenderness.

"By having more accurate information on these traits soon after birth, breeders are able to select rams that have superior merit for these economically important but hard to measure traits," Prof. Rowe said. “We have validated the genomic tests based on thousands of sheep that made up the Information Nucleus flock and now MLA’s resource flock, and we are very confident about the accuracy of the genomic predictions.”

The Sheep Genomic Test is available for $50 per test through the Sheep CRC.
Details are available at
www.sheepcrc.org.au.

Sheep breeders are encouraged to submit blood samples well before Christmas to ensure a quick turnaround of test results.



Media contact: Michael Thomson on 07 4927 0805 / 0408 819 666


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