Turnaround times for sheep DNA test processing continue to improve following upgrades to Neogen Australasia’s processing facility at the University of Queensland, Gatton.
Over the last six months there has been a significant reduction in turnaround times, which were as high as 12 weeks last year when blood samples were being sent to the United States for processing.
Chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), Professor James Rowe, said access to a state-of-the-art genomics laboratory within Australia had overcome one of the biggest problems that industry had faced in developing commercial scale use of DNA technologies.
“While sending samples to the US for processing provided a high quality result at the right price, there were always unpredictable issues with postal, courier and customs services,” Prof. Rowe said.
“Fast turnaround time is particularly important in sheep breeding operations, with increasing use of young rams and narrow windows for important selection decisions. Having certainty in turnaround times therefore represents a game changer for many breeders.”
The Sheep CRC board yesterday toured Neogen’s new laboratories, where they heard that producers who provide DNA samples using Tissue Sampling Units (TSUs), rather than the traditional blood cards, would be the immediate beneficiaries of the improved turnaround times.
“During the laboratory tour and our meetings afterwards, it was very clear that TSUs are the best method for delivering processing efficiencies for DNA testing,” Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said.
“The automated laboratory robotics used to handle the TSUs contribute to greater precision and faster processing – contributing to consistently superior data quality and success rate when compared to blood cards.”
New data from Sheep Genetics shows the impact that introduction of genomic technologies has had on the rate of genetic gain within the Australian flock, and the associated improvement in flock productivity.
For a number of Merino flocks that started using genomic information when it was first introduced in 2011, the rate of genetic gain based on the Merino Plus index has increased by 39% and for Terminal flocks the increase has been between 11% for the Carcase Plus index and 47% when including eating quality traits.
Increased rates of gain equate to as much as an additional 35c/ewe/year over and above the rates of gain being achieved in the pre-DNA era.
“Use of the new DNA technologies is increasing rapidly with the numbers of both parentage and genomic tests more than doubling over the last year.
“Seeing the CRC’s blue sky research transformed into standard practice for leading Australian sheep producers is a great outcome and a result of our productive relationship with Neogen,” Prof. Rowe said.