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Genomics explained…


Farmers Weekly, January 2014

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Genetic technology is something that the UK sheep industry is going ot have to adopt to remain competitive, according to FW Livestock Editor Sarah Alderton.

Genomics may be an alien word for many sheep farmers but it is a term that is going to become important if the UK is to speed up genetic progress and remain competitive in the lamb market.

Innovis geneticist Dr Janet Roden answers some of Sarah’s questions about genomics – What does it mean? What are the benefits over EBVs? How far way are we from it in the sheep sector? How can it be used? and How accurate is it?

Janet explains that genomic information will be used alongside performance records to improve the accuracy of EBVs for traits that have low accuracy. Genomic Breeding Values will be particularly useful for traits that are currently hard to record in the live animal such as meat eating quality and disease resistance, and for traits that are only expressed in one sex (such as mothering ability) or for those which can only be measured late in an animal’s life (eg longevity). 

“At Innovis we are busy with an intensive programme of performance recording and DNA testing in order to build up the essential information we will need to generate genomic breeding values for up to 50 different traits.  We hope to have genomic breeding values for some of these traits such as meat eating quality available to use in our breeding decisions within the next five years. 

According to Livestock Editor Sarah, “using EBVs and genomic evaluations is a step change the industry is going to have to make if it’s to compete with the big boys. We need to look at our breeds, at how they’re managed and start using technology to help us achieve a competitive advantage.”

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