New tech to aid Merino flock breeding

DNA profiling made available to ewe trial competitors.

Sheep
Sheep Co-operative Research Centre’s industry engagement and training co-ordinator, Lu Hogan, explains the RamSelect Plus app and the range of DNA tests on the market.

Sheep Co-operative Research Centre’s industry engagement and training co-ordinator, Lu Hogan, explains the RamSelect Plus app and the range of DNA tests on the market.

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Genomics is gradually making its way into the traditional world of Merino breeding, including the traditional forum of ewe competitions.

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Genomics is gradually making its way into the traditional world of Merino breeding, including the traditional forum of ewe competitions.

The Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will provide DNA profiling for all flocks entering the 2018 Doug Bicket Memorial Ewe Trial, held at Parkes, said a Sheep CRC spokesman.

The use of the technology is valued at $800 plus GST per flock, and will be introduced as an option for ewe competition entrants to support improved genetic selection decisions by competitors. Entries are now open for the competition, with nominations due by the start of spring in order for DNA testing of the flocks to be completed prior to the harvest period later this year, the spokesman said.

The Parkes Maiden Ewe Competition organising committee president, Garry O'Brien, and sponsor ,Graeme Ostini, of Ostini Wool, Parkes, said the initiative was a great way of introducing sheep breeders to new technologies which could help progress flock performance.

“There’s technology out there we need to learn about and put into practice if we’re to improve our flocks and take this industry forward,” Mr Ostini said.

“Events like ours are a great opportunity to challenge producers to consider new ideas and try new things as part of a competitive sheep assessment.

“After we shear our wool and it goes out into the world, figures measuring quality are paramount in driving sales – we need to be using figures to our advantage at farm level, as well to improve our productivity.”

The 2017 ewe trial was held in late February, with a variety of Merino types and bloodlines visually assessed for their breeding and wool traits, with competitors and spectators alike seeking insights into how to improve their flock productivity.

Mr Ostini said this desire for knowledge was behind the organising committee’s decision to invite the Sheep CRC’s industry engagement and training co-ordinator, Lu Hogan, to the 2017 event to discuss new genetic selection technologies, including the RamSelect Plus app and the range of DNA tests on the market. 

“RamSelect Plus is a really easy way to begin selecting rams based on Australian Sheep Breeding Values,” Ms Hogan said. “The web-based application allows ram buyers to find and rank rams that match their own breeding objective. RamSelect works hand-in-hand with the DNA Flock Profile test, which has only recently become commercially available to producers across Australia.”

The Flock Profile test will provide breeders with an estimate of the genetic merit of their flock relative to the national average.

It allows breeders to:

  • track how their flock genetically compares to animals in MerinoSelect
  • identify genetic strengths and deficiencies for key Merino traits, and
  • identify rams on RamSelect.com.au carrying the ASBVs that will improve the genetic profile of their flock.

The Sheep CRC will again have somebody on hand in 2018 to talk about the DNA test results.

Source: Sheep CRC

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