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Ag News

Sheep DNA testing just got a whole lot cheaper.....

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • Jul 11, 2018

Sheep breeders will today enjoy cheaper genomic testing of their flock when the price of the Sheep Genomic Test is reduced from $35 per animal to $27 (plus GST) when collected using a tissue sampling unit (TSU) and $30 (plus GST) when collected on a blood card.

The lower price is made possible through a combination of new developments that build efficiencies spear-headed by a new online ordering system at www.sheepdna.com.au to make purchasing and processing of orders quicker and easier for producers, and supported by new DNA testing technologies, an Australian-based laboratory and increasing test numbers.

The SheepDNA site has been established by the Australian Innovation Company (AIC), the commercial delivery arm of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the new price structure and website, along with faster test processing times from Neogen Australasia, had been implemented to ensure more breeders could benefit from the technology.

“While demand for DNA tests has more than doubled over the last 12 months, it has been clear from our market research that there are still many more producers who want to undertake DNA testing but have been holding back until the ordering process was easier and the prices were cheaper,” Prof. Rowe said.

“Making DNA testing more accessible will result in faster rates of genetic gain right across the national flock and to be able to deliver the Sheep Genomic test at $27/head marks a major milestone for the sheep industry – just two years ago the price of the same test was $50 (plus GST).

“It is also significant that the price of the Genomic Flock Profiling test will drop by $100 to $700 (+GST). This is an important development as many commercial producers are interested in this information in order to better target their ram buying decisions during 2018.

“The online ordering system will allow producers to select from the range of tests available, lodge their order and track its progress. The user account system means they can keep a track of multiple orders and pay online.”

Also known as the 15k sheep DNA test, the Sheep Genomic Test is the standard test used by industry to genotype animals and predict breeding values for a range of commercial traits, including those otherwise measured late in life (adult wool weights) or after slaughter (eating quality).

At this stage it has not been possible to reduce the price of the Parentage and Horn/Poll Test – it will remain at $21/test. However, the Sheep Genomic Test delivers all of the information provided by the parentage and horn/poll so with prices for the two different tests moving closer together, breeders could consider using the Sheep Genomic Test to replace the Parentage Test wherever the additional information would be useful.

It is available for the four major breeds – Merino, Poll Dorset, White Suffolk and Border Leicester. Typically, breeders are recommended to test about 20 percent of their breeding flock to maximise the benefits on offer from the test.

Data from Sheep Genetics shows that for a number of Merino flocks that started using genomic information when it was first introduced in 2011, the rate of genetic gain based on the Merino Plus index has increased by between 35% and 49% and for Terminal flocks the increase has been between 11% for the Carcase Plus index to over 45% when including eating quality traits.

Over the last six months there has also been a significant reduction in turnaround times for processing tests at Neogen Australasia’s laboratories. Last year processing took up to 12 weeks when blood samples were being sent to the United States for processing; they now average five to eight weeks for processing, analysis by Sheep Genetics and reporting to producers, thanks largely to the processing now being undertaken at Neogen’s new facilities at Gatton, Qld.