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Baa Code Fingers The Rogue Rams

Rogue rams that ‘jump the fence’ undetected into the ewe paddock, causing havoc to farmers’ carefully planned sheep breeding programmes are no longer a problem.

DNA tests to identify the parentage and bloodline of elite sheep are now commercially available to breeders using the unique DNA ‘fingerprinting’ technology now available under licence in both Australia and New Zealand from SignaGen Molecular Breeding Solutions. CSIRO Livestock Industries in Australia developed the technology with funding support from the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation (AWRAP).

Using this technology is like assigning each sheep a bar code – or “baa code” as it has been nicknamed. The breeder can tell a lamb’s real parents by comparing the codes – even when the sire is unknown or the lamb has been adopted by a different ewe.

This should lead to more rapid gains in wool quality, growth rate and other desirable traits, scientists say.

The groundbreaking use of this technology for the sheep industry will enable producers to track down rams that are passing on undesirable genes as well as pedigree those identified with favourable traits.

State-of-the-art DNA fingerprinting used with modern breeding techniques will help the industry to accelerate the genetic improvement of its livestock and so increase its competitiveness.

Specialised gene marker “baa codes”, together with the simple Rosren card DNA sampling system, will allow SignaGen to provide a reliable, high quality, cost-effective DNA testing service to meet industry demands,” says Dr Tom Watson, Business Development Manager of SignaGen. “This new blood sampling system enables farmers to sample their animals without specialist assistance”.

“Our ongoing relationship with CSIRO Livestock Industries ensures that we stay at the technological forefront in this rapidly developing genotyping area.

“This, together with SignaGen’s state-of–the–art hardware and software systems, will guarantee that breeders have access to the very best DNA testing services.

“Mis-identification due to mis-mothering and incorrect recording procedures will rapidly become a thing of the past,” he said.

"Through DNA testing we have eliminated the errors in identifying the true parents of lambs, and this will have a major impact on the sheep industry. DNA typing will ensure that lambs being offered for sale have come from the specified parent bloodlines.

“Identifying parents using DNA markers is now a well-established forensic procedure. We have applied this technology to sheep to allow the industry to embrace modern breeding technology to make significant advances in livestock improvement.

“Through DNA parentage we are able to track down and remove sheep carrying undesirable traits. This technology represents a gateway for producers into modern technology — soon we will be able to use DNA fingerprinting to selectively identify rams with highly desirable qualities such as fine wool and more efficient growth,” he says.

For more information, contact Dr Tom Watson at SignaGen – Freephone 0508 SignaGen (0508 744 624); Facsimile 07 343 5564; mobile – 021 656 558 or E-mail: tom.watson@signagen.com

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