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Courtesy of Neogen

Embarking on DNA testing for the first time might seem a daunting task but be assured it is an easy and affordable process that can deliver significant improvement in a flock through better selection at joining time.

What does DNA testing tell us as sheep breeders?

DNA testing is a fast and reliable way to read the genetic code that determines a sheep’s performance and knowing the genetic merit of an animal at a younger age can guide selection and breeding decisions and shorten generation interval within your flock.

Where do you start?

The first step is to look at your breeding objective and identify what sort of DNA test is the best option for you. Having visually identified the pick of a drop, a DNA test can then be used to identify which animals to keep and which to cull from your breeding program. For breeds like the Poll Dorset the GGP 50K is the most popular as it feeds directly into the LAMBPLAN system. What if you are not a member of LAMBPLAN?

While the GGP 50K is Neogen’s most popular testing option for terminal breeders, for breeders not in LAMBPLAN we can offer parentage testing. Parentage testing is a popular choice amongst breeders who syndicate mate their animals or would like to elevate mothering up from their production system. DNA parentage is the most accurate way to identify full pedigree of an animal and allow your purchasers to buy with confidence.

Is taking a DNA sample hard?

The short answer is no. To get started you will need an applicator and Tissue Sample Units (TSUs), these can be sourced from Neogen. TSUs are designed so that each sample has its own vial and cutter which reduces the risk of sample contamination. Each TSU has its own unique ID that can be linked to the animal’s ear tag, these can be easily recorded into on farm databases. Neogen’s lab will also accept samples as blood cards or semen samples.

What information do I get from a GGP 50K test?

Neogen’s GGP 50K test results are combined with the physical measurements that you send through to LAMBPLAN and become a part of your animals Australia Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs). Genomic Breeding Values (GBVs) are produced for critical traits including birth weight, weaning weight, post weaning weight, eye muscle depth, fat dept and carcase weight. Through ASBVs GGP 50K test reports on the key drivers of sheep meat eating quality with values for lean meat yield, intramuscular fat and shear force these traits are otherwise impossible to measure without post-slaughter measurements.

What research is behind the GGP 50K test?

Neogen’s GGP 50K test was developed with close collaboration with the former Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) and contains the top ovine SNPs (exclusive to Neogen). Research by Moghaddar et al (2019) has been shown that using the top SNPs increases prediction accuracies by 7-10% in both purebred and composite animals, when compared with conventional Ovine 50K tests which impute data.

How long does it take before you will see results?

We recommend allowing at least 1 week in postage before your samples are received at the Neogen office. Once your samples have been checked against the relevant paperwork and the invoice has been paid your samples will enter the laboratory. Results are usually received 3 to 4 weeks from the time the samples arrive at the laboratory. An additional one to two weeks should also be factored in for the results to be processed through the LAMBPLAN analysis (data runs are conducted on the 1 and 15 of each month).

Results for GGP 50K tests will be seen on the animals LAMBPLAN data, if parentage has been requested these results will be emailed to you by the Neogen SheepDNA office