What can genomics offer Texel breeders

What can genomics offer Texel breeders

Genomic technology will become increasingly available to UK sheep breeders and could lead to a revolution in the number of traits that are selected for and the speed at which selection can occur.

 

Genomic technology will become increasingly available to UK sheep breeders and could lead to a revolution in the number of traits that are selected for and the speed at which selection can occur.

Genomic tools are particularly useful for selecting for traits which are hard to measure. For example, disease resistance, ewe longevity, meat quality traits and even the selection of animals with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

A DNA test should not, however, be seen as a replacement for recording the performance of individual animals. Ironically, phenotypic records – that is to say records of animals’ physical performance and appearance - will become even more important in the genomic age.

In practice this means that individual records will still be needed, but the inclusion of genomic technology will mean increased accuracy and, for some traits, not all animals will need to be recorded so more breeders and commercial lamb producers will be able to access these improvements.

In the meantime continuing participation in performance recording will be vital for those who wish to access developing genomic technologies. With a balanced approach between estimated breeding values, genomic tools, structural soundness and general appearance, the UK sheep industry could see long-term benefits in the genetic merit of the national flock.

Genomics are being used globally in the sheep sector. Australia is one of the countries leading the way and a good introduction can be found here and an introductory video here. It’s not just the livestock industry which is using genomics. The science is being used in fish and plant breeding as well as in other important food sources like clams and oysters.

And outside of commercial food production the Honey Bee genome is being studied to help understand social interactions between insects with many other examples in a range of organisms.