Genomic Testing Lamb Quality
L - R: Greg Funke 'Bundarra Downs' Western Flat, Mary Currie 'Lyndoch Park' Dergholm, Adam Price 'Majardah' Glencoe, Peter Horwood 'Lockier River' Mingenew and Damon Coats 'Ilfracombe' Poll Dorsets studs checking out genomics tested sires.
Meat Elite Australia members recently met in Bendigo to discuss innovations in the sheep industry. Genomic testing for meat eating qualities was a key topic on the agenda.
Meat Elite members had previously attended the Sheep Genetics Australia Leading Breeder Conference. The conference canvassed developments in the use of genomics as a breeding and ram selection tool. While commercial and seedstock producers have realized the value of Australian Sheep Breeding Values as predictors of sheep performance in growth, fat, muscling, worm resistance and lambing ease, ASBVs don’t predict meat eating qualities.
As Dale Price, Meat Elite Australia explained, “genomics testing has improved our capacity to identify sheep with superior meat eating qualities while the animal is still alive. In the past the animal had to be slaughtered to assess these characteristics. Lamb is renowned as a superb source of protein and we are keen to improve these qualities for the consumer.”
The Meat Elite group is considered a world leading co-operative breeding group. By sharing genetics and gathering highly accurate data on individual animals the group has made 21% progress above the terminal sire index. ‘Already the Meat Elite group has gathered two years of Research Breeding Values on sheep within member’s flocks,’ said Chairperson Mr. Ian Gillett of Wunnamurra Poll Dorset Stud.
The next exciting development in genomics testing will involve a computer assisted search of all retained 2012 young sires in MEA flocks to identify those animals showing superior meat eating qualities. ‘We’ll also genomics test some with expected lower eating quality so we can benchmark the results. Meat Elite members have a history of supporting scientific research in the sheep meat industry hence this project,” explained Peter Horwood, ‘Lockier River Poll Dorsets’ Mingenew Western Australia.
While presenting a paper at the Leading Breeder Conference about Meat Elite Australia, Dale Price outlined the co-operative ventures that Meat Elite members use to adapt to processor and consumer driven demands. He explained that this had benefits for Meat Elite flock clients. Producers will be able to gain further information about the genomic initiative through the Sheep Genetics Australia website and by contacting members via the Meat Elite website.
Meat Elite Online Ram Sale
Meat Elite Australia, one of Australia’s premier sheep breeding groups has shown once again why it is such a progressive group of ram breeders.
In a combined breeders initiative, MEA recently offered 29 outstanding young sires to the Australian Prime Lamb Industry. Eight MEA studs participated in the Auctions plus sale. The rams on offer were credited with Australian Sheep Breeding Values in the top 10% or better on LambPlan. Michael O’Sullvan Jewsharp Poll Dorsets, Baynton Victoria offered typical young rams all with excellent LambPlan figures, in ideal working condition for the commercial environment.
Co-ordinator of the sale, Damon Coats of the Ilfracombe Poll Dorset Stud Donald said, ‘there are very few opportunities like this, to secure the quality of young rams on offer. Purchasers could buy with confidence, knowing that there was years of accurate data backing the performance of their young sires.’
Three studs sold young rams that will be used for stud purposes: Lyndoch Park Poll Dorsets sold the highest priced young sire, with further stud prospects sold by Pepperton Poll Dorsets at Elmore and the Majardah Stud at Glencoe South Australia.
Strong commercial sales were recorded by Bruan Poll Dorsets at Condah Victoria, and Woolumbool Poll Dorsets located at Lucindale.
It is likely that the successful sale will become an annual event.
Meat Elite Australia Using Genomics to Meet Future Expectations
Meat Elite Australia was well represented at a recent sheep Genomics Workshop in Sydney. The workshop was organized primarily to allocate 1500 genomics tests among interested individuals or groups such as Meat Elite Australia. SGA, CRC, MLA will subsidize the cost of undertaking these 1500 tests as a continuing effort to build a data bank around hard to measure traits. Specifically in meat sheep, this means meat eating quality, intra muscular fat, yield etc. In addition to the 1500 tests 3000 have already be snapped up.
Roger and Dianne Trewick, Pepperton Poll Dorset Stud Elmore Victoria, Rodney Watt Felix Poll Dorsets Greenthorpe NSW, George Carter Linton Poll Dorsets and Dale Price Majardah Poll Dorsets Glencoe South Australia, all members of arguably Australia’s leading terminal sire breeding group were keen to hear about opportunities for future advances in sheep breeding through the advances of science.
Principal of Majardah Poll Dorsets Dale Price explained, “Meat Elite members have used Australian Sheep Breeding Values to improve growth rates, muscling and worm resistance in their terminal sires. What we can’t do, is measure meat eating qualities unless we slaughter the animal which tends to end its breeding potential. Fortunately through the use of genomics we can now gain an understanding of the potential an animal has in the areas of yield, intra muscular fat, sheer force and ultimately meat eating quality while it is still alive. Even better this information can be accessed virtually at birth giving us the potential to speed up genetic gain by reducing generational intervals.”
Dr. Rob Banks, Prof. Julius van der Werf and others also highlighted the importance of ongoing in field calibration of data assigned through DNA testing. Beyond two generations the quality of ASBVs will start to dip without this ongoing checking process and the diminution of across flock linkage. Post 2014 there will need to be reference flocks which are carefully managed to provide high quality data that will ensure ASBVs assigned via genomics tests are accurate. Additionally it is important to note that the bigger the reference flock the greater the accuracies achieved.
Meat Elite Australia flocks have a real prospect of offering a reference flock service because of the accuracy of data collected by members and the linkage that exists between member flocks.. To recognize the efforts of those who provide this information for the benefit of the lamb industry, a royalty (on genomics tests) or some form of payment made by the ‘whole’ industry may be required. This is because some seedstock producers may opt to only DNA test their lambs to gain ASBVs – a much easier exercise than what we do now to collect data.
Testing 20% of your rams will give you virtually all the genetic data required for the genetic you’ll make.
Currently investigations are underway re 50K. & 10K chips to ascertain what information can be gleaned. While the 50K test will give a lot more information, a combination of the two we may be able to reduce the costs to a more manageable level. By conducting the 50K genomics tests on sires it may provide sufficient data to fill the gaps on progeny that tested using the 10K tests. Julius and others will continue to explore these issues.
Meat Elite Australia will undertake a rigorous search of flocks to identify sheep with that are likely to offer excellent meat eating qualities for further analysis using the genomics tests allocated. ‘We are positioning our group for a bright future in the lamb industry,” said Mr. Price.
Meat Elite Australia Team Fly the Flag at LambEx
Seven members of the Meat Elite Australia team attended the LambEx conference at Bendigo. While there they were approached by many interested prime lamb producers keen to learn more about the group and the benefits of LambPlan, as a key strategy for improving farm profitability. Most were looking to improve their understanding of Australian Sheep Breeding Values so they could make better ram selection decisions to improve production outcomes and marketing targets.
It was very notable that conferees came from at least 5 states. The conference highlighted:
- The benefits of research, benchmarking and the adoption of new technologies and practices in the Lamb Industry if we are to compete with other food sources.
- The importance of utilizing the technologies, genetics and the expertise available to ensure lamb remains highly attractive as a source of dietary protein and enjoyment.
- Feed efficiency - converting grass or grain into kilograms of meat that should be a priority for the lamb industry, it is for our competitors.
- Everyone in the agricultural sector has a responsibility to inform others, including our customers about the efficient and responsible way we convert natural resources into products that benefit our fellow citizens. When we are advocates for our sector, we can change the perceptions and hysteria created by a few minority groups hell bent on undermining the livestock industry.
LambEx created the environment for expertise in science, on farm management, technologies and marketing to share information with participants. Utilising what was learnt is the next challenge. A highlight of the conference was the number of young enthusiastic participants keen to learn and share their perspectives on the future of our industry.
Meat Elite Australia was pleased to support LambEx and trust conferees gained an understanding of the latest trends and management strategies.
Trip to India 2012
Indian sheep production came under the microscope for two prominent stud breeding families from the South East of South Australia and Western Victoria.
Majardah Poll Dorset and White Suffolk Stud principals, Dale and Ruth Price, based at Glencoe in the South East of South Australia, and Mary and David Currie of Lyndoch Park Poll Dorsets operating at Warrock near Casterton, recently visited the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute Arid Region Campus near Bikaner in northern India.
The visitors were keen to assess developments and opportunities in the sheep industry while participating in a 28 day Indian Farm Study tour.
The Bikaner based Institute focused their research efforts on two indigenous breeds. The Magra a wool producing breed selected for its bright lustrous wool ideal carpets. While Magra only cut 2.5 kg wool with an ideal staple length of 2.5cm, the breed’s ability to survive in desert type conditions with a lambing percentage of 98% make it ideal for the production systems in place. Senior Researcher Doctor Mohd Ayub indicated that the Institute had tried to introduce genetic material from other breeds, but had found the crosses were less resilient in the field.
The black headed Marwari were used for meat. In many respects the visitors thought they resembled black headed dorpers. Marwari are lean sheep with little fat cover, in part due to the long distances they are expected to cover between feed and water. Wool is a secondary feature of the breed so they are only shorn once per year unlike the Magra, which are shorn twice. Marwari only have a 15% twinning rate.
Institute Director Dr. R. K. Sawal outlined the process whereby the institute provided rams to local farmers at the equivalent of $70 – 80AUS to help improve the quality of breeding stock. Selection was based on growth rates and in the case of the Magra wool quality. Ewes were joined with a 1/ 50 ratio. Monitoring what happened once the animals went into the commercial sector was difficult. “The local farmers resisted the practice of ear tagging sheep, and failed to monitor production gains. If they required money then it was likely a portion or all the flock they owned would be sold for slaughter,” explained Mr. Price. “We also need to remember that a big flock in the area is about 100 ewes. This is consistent with Indian agricultural production. With approximately 750million people involved in agriculture, you are never going to get Australian type farms, but taken as a whole India has been very successful in becoming self sufficient in food production.”
Mrs. Currie believed there was an opportunity for the infusion of commercially focused Poll Dorsets and White Suffolks in the Marwari to boost meat quality. Discussion between the local scientists also highlighted Australian developments and the world class research and impact of Sheep Genetics Australia on improving production of high quality lamb.
Meat Elite Conference Armidale – February 2012
MEAT ELITE GROUP AT POLLAMBI STUD 2012
The annual Meat Elite conference was held this year in February at Armidale N.S.W.
Most members arrived the night before so as to be fresh for the two days ahead. The conference started off with a quick questionnaire of all members which was repeated on the last day with very interesting results. The first speaker was Dr. Rob Banks who spoke on “where to next for Meat Elite” . To finish Dr Banks declared that Meat Elite is a world class collaborative group that has no parallel overseas and few peers in Australia. He congratulated Meat Elite members on their commitment to the lamb industry, genetic improvement, the group, and to each other.
Dr Alex Ball spoke on the YST and rates of progress and application to genomics.
This was followed by Brian Kinghorn on the application of Mate Select to Young Sire Programs.
After lunch the group was addressed on data quality and OVIS and how your data is affected and a Sheep Genetics website session with Tom Hooke and Luke Stephen showing us new tools for our business.
To complete the day the group visited Pollambi Poll Dorset stud owned by Arthur Gates.
The next day started early with Meat Elite Business and AGM followed by a visit to Andrew Say’s stud Yasloc at Glen Innes.
The conference was another great success with only three absentees unable to attend, next year Meat Elite will head to central Victoria for their annual conference.
Dubbo beckoned for the Meat Elite Australia group this year. The annual conference co-ordinated by well known local breeders John and Margaret Kelly of Marocara Poll Dorsets was a resounding success.
Many of the members commenced the weekend conference with an overnight safari stay at the Western Plains Zoo. During the visit, they heard a presentation about the efforts to identify, control, eliminate and/or rescue the Tasmania devils. This involved considerable scientific research that often paralleled some of the work being undertaken in the sheep industry.
Visits during the weekend involved the Kelly property where members inspected their sheep, discussed innovative practices with the Kelly family, researchers, DPI and trade representatives. Mr. Farren Fletcher, Fletcher International, and staff also provided an excellent tour and information sharing session with MEA and Superwhite members at the Dubbo Abattoir. “His openness in addressing questions surprised us,” said Michael O’Sullivan from the Jewsharp Stud. Michael had attended the conference only days after having part of his property burnt in the disastrous Black Saturday fires.
Presentations from Dr. Alex Ball and Matthew Dwyer from Sheep Genetics regarding LAMBPLAN and the Sheep CRC projects continue to challenge the group’s actions and direction. Dr. Dave Pethick, Murdoch University, travelled from Perth to discuss ‘Sheep Meat Eating Quality’ with the two groups, building on the information shared by other speakers. Later, Dr. Greg McCann veterinary surgeon based at Dubbo discussed embryo transplant technologies and export opportunities for quality Australian genetics. Sandy Morrison, Hermes Poll Dorsets was also able to share his experience in this area, both at the conference and later on property, when members visited his farm.
In keeping with MEA’s desire to explore innovation and good practice in the sheep industry members visited the Centre Plus Merino Stud at Tullamore. Robert and Mark Mortimer have made impressive gains in their genetic improvement program. George Spring Ardoe Stud was impressed by the pedigree matchmaker technology used to match lambs and ewes. The use of technology was further highlight by Mark’s refinement of data collection when weights were directly loaded into pedigree wizard as sheep moved through weighing scales .’All the information available on a particular sheep was at your fingertips in the yards,’ explained George. ‘It highlights the benefitof looking outside your industry for new ideas and practices.’
Members of MEA travelled to the properties of Richard Hawkin, Thurlestone Stud Cookamidgera, where despite dry dusty conditions, he presented a quality line up of unpampered functional dorsets. Many members were impressed by the group’s ram Valma 349/06. He was presented in paddock condition, and is proving very useful in strategic breeding programs.
The final destination for the group was Felix Rams operated by Rodney and Liz Watt. This stud has a long history at the forefront of the modern meat sheep industry. Members assisted at the end of the day, drafting some eight month old rams that were snapped up by keen commercial producers the next day. Reflecting on the visit and the outcome the next day, Dale Price President MEA said, “the sale of the young rams encapsulated what MEA is really on about – producing quality sires for the sheep meat industry with performance information that is more that skin deep.”
Inspecting Glen Devon Poll Dorsets - L-R Darren Smith 'Farrer' NSW and Meat Elie Poll Dorset breeders: Peter Horwood 'Lockier River' Mingenew WA., Dale Price 'Majardah' Glencoe SA., Roger Trewick 'Pepperton' Elmore Vic., Mary Currie 'Lyndoch Park' Casterton Vic., Ros Funke 'Bundarra' Weston Flat SA., John Kelly 'Marocara' Wongarbon NSW., David Gordon 'Bruan' Condah Vic., and Phil Clothier 'Woolumbool' Lucindale SA.
Meat Elite Australia poll dorset breeders L-R Peter Horwood 'Lockier River' Mingenew WA., Roger Trewick 'Pepperton' Elmore Vic. Dale Price'Majardah' Glencoe SA., Mary Currie 'Lyndoch Park' Casterton, Margaret Kelly 'Marocara' Wongarbon NSW., and Ros Funke 'Bundarra' Weston Flat SA. inspecting Glen Devon Poll Dorsets.