Genomics Demonstration and Validation Project

Current industry recommendations are to genomic test the top 30% of progeny based on a mid-parent Australian Sheep Breeding Value (ASBV) and visual assessment. The genomic test result can then be used to identify the top performing rams and/or ewes to breed with. This process enables rams and ewes to be identified early, before normal phenotypic measurement and progeny testing, reducing the generation interval and eliminating the need to wait for phenotypic measurements.

MerinoLink Limited together with Bluechip Livestock had the opportunity to demonstrate the use of the new genomic technology in a commercial ram breeding enterprise and to validate the Research Breeding Values of the rams selected.

Out of the 2012 drop male progeny of the Bluechip Livestock Young Sire Program the top 28% were DNA sampled. A 50K SNP test was carried out and at the time (March 2013) Research Breeding Values (combined Genomic Breeding Value and Australian Sheep Breeding Value) were the product that was used to select the rams to mate to the 2011 drop ewes.

The 28% comprised of 3 to 4 rams from each of the 10 sire groups involved in the 2012 Bluechip Livestock Young Sire Program. The Research Breeding Value was used in conjunction with a second visual assessment to identify the top ram from each of the sire groups (10 in total). These rams were selected to be syndicate mated with the 2011 drop ewes run at the Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre.

The 2011 drop ewes and 2013 drop progeny were all DNA Parent tested to identify their full pedigree. All progeny are currently in the process of being objectively and visually assessed in line with the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association protocols to progeny test the 10 genomically selected rams.

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