Time is right for sheep breeders to step up and order genomic tests

Sheep Central, August 27, 2014

WITH the sheep industry enthusiastically embracing DNA parentage tests for this year’s lamb drop, the time is right for leading breeders to take genetic selection to the next level with full genotyping on their top 20 percent of lambs.

Using the Sheep Genomic Selection Test can add 10-15pc genetic gain to a Merino ram breeding enterprise, and when combined with management changes such as ram lamb mating, the increase in rate of genetic gain is predicted to be 25pc.

A small blood sample is all that is required to undertake a Sheep Genomics Selection Test.

A small blood sample is all that is required to undertake a Sheep Genomics Selection Test.

According to the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation, testing just 20pc of the ram drop will deliver more than 80pc of the potential gain on offer.

“The tool is particularly powerful when combined with the Sheep Parentage & Poll Test,” Sheep CRC chief executive Prof James Rowe said.

“Breeders who use the Sheep Parentage Test to identify the pedigree of their best lambs can use the mid-parent values to refine the selection of top lambs for genotyping,” he said.

The Sheep Genomic Selection Test on the top 20pc of the drop then helps to identify the lambs carrying the specific traits they require to drive the profitability of their flock.

“As any breeder will testify, not all siblings are equal – the Selection Test allows breeders to distinguish early in life which is the better brother based on measures which are not detectable to the human eye, as the test provides information on the combination of genes that  come from each of the parents,” Prof Rowe said.

The Sheep Genomic Selection Test (sometimes referred to by researchers as the 12k or LD test) provides information on genetic merit of animals for a range of traits, including those which are hard to measure such as worm egg count in a dry environment; or cannot be measured until late in life, such as adult wool traits; or even post-slaughter traits like eating quality and tenderness.

“By having accurate information on these traits soon after birth, breeders are able to select rams that have superior merit for these economically important but hard to measure traits,” Prof Rowe said.

Economic modelling has indicated a long-term industry benefit of 20:1 return for each test – that is, a $50 test will return $1000 benefit over a 20-year period in today’s dollars in terms of more meat and wool production as well as better meat eating quality.

  • The Sheep Genomic Selection Test is available for $50 per test through the Sheep CRC. Details are available at




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -