DNA testing giving breeders an edge

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DNA testing to achieve faster gains and better balance in ram selection is giving breeders greater certainty of their breeding programs, according to the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry (Sheep CRC).

The latest genomics research from Sheep CRC has delivered improved accuracy for several commercially valuable traits.

These include the horn-poll prediction, dressing percentage and lean meat yield. Of particular importance is the improved accuracy of intramuscular fat, which is a key determinant of eating quality.

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said sheep breeders would be able to use DNA testing early in an animal's life to identify a wide range of traits.

"These new findings are at the cutting edge of global genomics research," Mr Rowe said.

He said the Research Breeding Values (RBVs) were based on a blend of new genomics technology and the conventional measurement techniques which supported Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs).

"The accuracy levels for these RBVs have improved significantly as a result of additional data from the Information Nucleus program," Mr Rowe said.

Rob Banks, of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), said genetic improvements were already delivering heavier and leaner lambs, however, increasing yield, without maintaining eating quality, could result in on-farm losses as a result of eating quality decline.

The Genomics Pilot Project II has 720 rams registered and has already tested DNA from more than 100 rams. DNA is extracted from the blood samples and tested via the 50k SNP chip which measures 50,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP).

DNA testing costs participants $50 a ram producers are receiving results within 12 weeks of submitting blood cards.

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