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Genotyping chip a milestone for sheep industry

9am, Tuesday 3 September 2013

Genotyping chip a milestone for sheep industry

A new sheep genotyping tool puts the sheepmeat industry at the forefront of breeding technology, says FarmIQ chief executive Collier Isaacs.

The completion of the “Ovine Infinium® HD SNP BeadChip” is being announced today. It means that a sheep’s performance can be predicted by testing its DNA, rather than extensive progeny testing being needed. “This will speed up genetic gain,” he says.

Creation of the new high-density chip and its use to create benefits for commercial farmers results from collaboration across the commercial and scientific sectors, he says.

FarmIQ played a significant role in getting this international development project underway, including committing two years ago to taking a consignment of the high-density chips when completed.

“Along with the meat yield and quality that FarmIQ is interested in, it will be used to improve performance in the areas of on-farm productivity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Developing this high-density chip was such a large and technically complex job that it required the expertise, time and facilities of many different groups. Teams of scientists in New Zealand have worked with teams in the United States and Australia to develop it. It was a collaborative effort, and we really appreciate all their input.

“This puts the sheepmeat industry at the forefront of breeding technology.”

The collaboration will continue in New Zealand as teams from different organisations put the new chip to work to achieve a range of results for sheep farmers, he says.

Eleanor Linscott, Consortium Manager for Ovita, says being able to use the new chip will take its work to lift on-farm productivity to a new level.

“We have been working with the lower density chip for the past five years and can correlate 28 on-farm traits to the DNA variants on that chip. So that means we can predict a sheep’s performance for these 28 traits based on its genetics. These are traits for things like reproduction, growth, disease resistance and longevity on commercial farms.

“This new chip will now give us far more detail on those traits.”

The new chip will also assist research by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre into reducing sheep emission of methane, says manager Mark Aspin.

“Research has shown that genetics do have an influence on how much gas an animal will emit from a given amount of feed.

“We have used the lower density chip to test 170 sires, and the new chip will further improve our understanding of the genetics.”

FarmIQ’s focus, meanwhile, is on getting more sheep with known meat yield and eating quality tested with the chip, to build up a database of the correlation between genotype and these expressed traits. It will then be used to determine sire breeding values for these traits..

Already the AgResearch team at Invermay, led by John McEwan and Shannon Clarke, have tested 5000 animals using the new chip.


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