13 Sep 2013

Sheep breeders ramp up DNA screening

1:22 pm on 13 September 2013

The sheep industry has just acquired a much-improved genotyping tool that will speed up the process of breeding sheep for better meat production and other gains.

The new high density "snip chip" is the result of collaborative work by scientists and sheep breeders here and overseas.

The Government and sheep industry funded Primary Growth Partnership programme, FarmIQ, underwrote the cost of the project.

FarmIQ's chief executive, Collier Isaacs, says it puts the sheepmeat industry at the forefront of breeding technology.

The new improved computer chip increases the ability to predict a sheep's performance by testing its DNA.

Looking like a small glass slide, it allows a breeder to check up to 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms -- genetic variations that can indicate whether an animal carries inherited traits which may boost commercial yields or improve resistance to pests or disease.

Mr Isaacs says along with the meat yield and quality that FarmIQ is interested in, the new snip chip will be used by sheep breeders looking to improve on-farm productivity and by researchers looking for genetic clues to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.