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Looking For Mr Good Baa

LOOKING FOR MR GOOD BAA

Rebecca Rowe counts sheep for a living, but it’s all in the search for the ultimate breeding stock.

With help from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, Rebecca – and Rissington Breedline Ltd- is looking at ways to accurately identify superior ewes and rams to give farmers greater returns through increased lambing percentages and faster lamb growth rates.

Key to its success is the technology developed by Rissington Breedline with funding assistance through Technology New Zealand. Rissington Breedline has a large-scale, long-term, composite sheep breeding programme that is still in its infancy but it could provide a valuable tool for improving productivity on the land.

The sheep breeding programme currently uses a three way cross called Highlander utilising the Romney, Texel and Finn sheep breeds. The Primera (the terminal sire) uses Poll Dorset, Suffolk, Australian White Suffolk and Landcorp Lamb Supreme breeds.

The company currently has 17,000 ewes in its programme in Southland and Hawkes Bay, but is looking to expand this to 60,000 to optimise composite breeding principles.

Rebecca Rowe says the company is selecting genetically superior rams, with proven progeny. “One of the major difficulties was ensuring 100% accuracy in determining progeny, particularly as higher fertility rates mean most ewes are producing two or three lambs in our breeding programme.".

The solution has been a mix of kiwi ingenuity and common sense. Newborn lambs are electronically ear-tagged and a blood sample taken at the same time. DNA testing is then carried out to assign parentage. The parentage and all other measurements recorded are linked electronically to the individual animal’s EID (electronic identification).

According to Rebecca Rowe, the increased accuracy within the recording programme comes from having the ability to assign parentage to 100% accuracy and the removal of manual transfer of collected data.

Ms Rowe says the assistance from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has meant the company has been able to implement the DNA collection and electronic tagging over the entire breeding programme. All rams available in March 2002 will have been bred in the new recording system.

-ends-

For more information:

- Rebecca Rowe, Rissington Breedline, 03 208 3445, 025 210 0298

- John Gibson, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, 04 917 7863 or 0800 832 469.…www.technz.co.nz

Backgrounder Grants for Private Sector R&D

- This is the newest scheme run under the Technology New Zealand umbrella.

- Grants are targeted specifically to technologically aware SMEs (usually less than $50m turnover). The aim is to increase the level of private sector expenditure of R&D.

- Support of up to 33.3% of R&D costs, to a maximum of $100,000 is available for qualifying projects.

- Latest figures show that around $1.5m per month is being invested in private sector R&D projects by GPSRD.

- The scheme has allocated more than $13.3 million, to 223 companies, since it was launched in September last year.

ENDS


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