Merino project data gets MERINOSELECT go-ahead

Terry Sim, June 28, 2019

AMSEA executive officer Ben Swain at a recent MLP Project field day.

MERINO Lifetime Productivity Project data is to be included in the national genetic benchmarking service MERINOSELECT after industry negotiations spanning several years.

Australian Wool Innovation earlier this month requested the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association submit to Sheep Genetics all MLP Project data for inclusion in the MERINOSELECT analysis.

AMSEA has said it will work with AGBU to implement this process to get the data in as quickly as possible.

MLA’s Michael Crowley

Meat & Livestock Australia’s general manager, producer consultation and adoption manager, Michael Crowley, said AWI has asked that the MLP data be accepted by MLA for inclusion in MERINOSELECT under the terms of an existing agreement with AMSEA.

“MLA has agreed to this request.”

Sheep Central has been told negotiations are continuing between AWI, Meat & Livestock Australia and AGBU in relation to the analysis and use of that data for MLP and other purposes.

Sheep Central reported late last year that AWI and Meat & Livestock Australia had agreed on the terms to allow analysis of MLP Project data for inclusion in MERINOSELECT.

AWI and the Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association are collaborating with five sire evaluation sites to deliver the $13 million MLP Project from 2015-25, to capture lifetime data from various Merino types across diverse environments. For at least three years, the two research and development corporations have been negotiating the terms for the inclusion of MLP data into Sheep Genetics and MERINOSELECT.

AWI ceded control of the MERINOSELECT database and of the data analysis software called OVIS when it withdrew from Sheep Genetics in 2016, leaving MLA as the sole Sheep Genetics funder. OVIS is needed to process data to generate genomic analysis for the MLP Project.

The two RDCs have been negotiating an agreement that would allow AWI to use OVIS for research and development purposes, with AWI contributing MLP data to Sheep Genetics and MERINOSELECT under a separate agreement.

MLA has a commercialisation license for OVIS, to use it to run Sheep Genetics evaluations and the co-owners of OVIS — MLA, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England — have been developing a licensing process for AGBU — a joint NSW DPI-UNE venture – to offer OVIS for research on behalf of other parties, like AWI.

AGBU working with AWI to get process work done

Mr Crowley said MLA understands that there is a significant amount of work to be done before the MLP data can be submitted to MLA/Sheep Genetics.

“AGBU is working with AWI to get the work done.

“Once received by MLA, data will be included in the next MERINOSELECT analysis run – analyses run twice each month,” he said.

“Updated ASBVs for sires used in the MLP reflecting the inclusion of that data would be available within two weeks of the data cut-off date, as with all data.”

Mr Crowley said more data would mean more accurate Australian Sheep Breeding Values.

“How much of an improvement we see will be dependent on the amount of data and how useful that data is as well as the heritability of the trait.”

MLP project manager Anne Ramsay said the development was great news for the industry. AMSEA chairman Jock McLaren said the development was very exciting “and should have happened a long time ago.”

Mr McLaren said AWI had listened to the frustrations of AMSEA and the industry in not having the MLP data in MERINOSELECT. The data will enable more accurate ASBVs on reproduction and other ‘hard-to-measure’ traits being measured in the MLP Project.

“Like all ASBVs, the more data you put behind them, the more accurate they are.”

AMSEA executive officer Ben Swain said the input of the MLP data into MERINOSELECT will add to sires’ breeding values, especially for traits such as worm egg count, reproduction (numbers of lambs weaned or NLW) and carcase, which aren’t necessarily routinely measured in many flocks.

“A lot of those sires don’t have very robust ASBVs for things like numbers of lambs weaned, but this data will obviously help that.

“This will give those breeding values more accuracy.”

He said the data will apply multiple adult fibre diameter and fleece weight measurements into sire ASBVs as the MLP Project continues.

“That’s what the MLP Project is all about.”

Several providers will retail genomic services after June 30

Mr Crowley said the OVIS owners, MLA, UNE and NSW DPI, have all signed an agreement that enables AGBU to use OVIS for research purposes with third parties including AWI. The “DNA pipeline” is a separate issue to the AWI/MLP negotiations, he said.

“The transition of the genomic database from the Sheep CRC to MLA is nearly completed and business as usual will continue post-June 30.

“Agreements are being developed with a number of genotyping companies, so there will be a number of commercial providers retailing genomic services that will feed information back into a central industry database,” he said.


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