Using DNA to identify critical traits in Poll Dorsets

DNA

DNA testing is a fast and reliable way to read the genetic code that determines sheep performance.

DNA testing is a fast and efficient method for Poll Dorset seedstock producers to obtain critical data for identifying elite, high-performance animals from an early age.

DNA test results from Neogen’s Sheep GGP 50K DNA test are combined with Sheep Genetics records to predict Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for critical traits including birth weight, weaning weight, eye muscle depth, fat depth, and carcase weight.

Neogen Australasia’s Territory Manager for South Australia and Western Australia, Dan Roe, said embarking on DNA testing for the first time might seem a daunting task, but assured breeders it was in fact an easy and affordable process that could deliver significant improvement in a flock through better selection at joining time.

“DNA testing is a fast and reliable way to read the genetic code that determines sheep performance,” Mr Roe said. “Knowing the genetic merit of animals at a young age can guide selection and breeding decisions and shorten generation interval in the flock.

“The first step is to look at your breeding objective and identify what sort of DNA test is the best option for you – in terminal breeds the Sheep GGP 50K is a popular test as it feeds into the LAMBPLAN system.

“Having visually identified the pick of a drop, a DNA test can then be used to identify which animals to keep and which to cull from your breeding program. As a result of adding genomic testing to the selection process, breeders can achieve an increase in their ASBV accuracies of between 5% and 30%.”

Neogen operates Australia’s only local livestock genomic testing laboratory in Queensland and is commercially delivering the range of tests developed by the former Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

Through ASBVs the Neogen Sheep GGP 50K test reports on the key drivers of sheepmeat eating quality with values for lean meat yield, intramuscular fat and shear force – traits that are otherwise impossible to measure without post-slaughter measurements.

Mr Roe said getting started was as simple as ordering a sample kit from sheepdna.com.au or by contacting your local Neogen Territory Manager.

Neogen offers three sample methods for samples to be submitted to the lab, with tissue sample units (TSUs) the preferred method for its ease on farm and its reliability during laboratory processing. Blood cards and semen are the other accepted methods.

“When you have received your sample kits it’s time to head out to the yards and physically take the sample.

“Using TSUs as your sample method will allow you to sample as early as birth allowing you to be able to get your data sooner rather than later.”

Taking a sample using a TSU is as simple as loading the TSU into the applicator and taking the sample from the middle of the ear, making sure that the TSU has been sealed and then placing it back in the box and recording the animals visual ID alongside the TSU number.

After taking samples, producers need to complete two pieces of paperwork: the Sample ID Form and the Submission Form for submission to Neogen.

“The Sample ID Form needs to be printed and completed and put in the post with your samples,” Mr Roe said. “The Submission Form is an excel spreadsheet, which records your animals visual and SheepGenetics ID numbers along with the TSU barcodes, and needs to be emailed to naa-sheep@neogen.com.

“When your samples have been entered on to the SheepDNA database you will be invoiced for the tests.”

Genotyping is completed within three to four weeks from the time the samples arrive at the laboratory.

An additional one to two weeks should also be factored in for the results to be processed through the LAMBPLAN analysis (data runs are conducted on the 1st and 15th of each month).

Results for GGP 50K tests will be seen on the animals LAMBPLAN data, if parentage has been requested these results will be emailed to you by the Neogen SheepDNA office.

“If you have been thinking about DNA testing sale or show animals, now is perfect time to start to ensure you have the results back in time for inclusion in your stud catalogues,” Mr Roe said.

-Australian Poll Dorset Association

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