No reason to be sheepish about paternity

Jul 19, 2012
Determining the parentage of lambs can sometimes be difficult using traditional methods. DNA-based parentage testing will help sheep producers record accurate pedigrees.

A new, low-cost DNA test to verify sheep parentage could soon help breeders worldwide to record accurate pedigrees and maximise the genetic potential of their flock.

Figuring out which are the of which sheep can be guesswork for sheep producers. A new, low-cost DNA test to verify sheep parentage could soon help breeders worldwide to record accurate pedigrees and maximise the genetic potential of their .

A team of Australian and international researchers has identified an ideal set of genetic markers that enable highly accurate parentage testing across all breeds of sheep.

CSIRO project leader Dr. James Kijas said it is important for producers to know the pedigrees of their animals.

"This information helps them select the best rams for mating to make sure the best are passed on to the next generation," Dr. Kijas said.

"We believe this test will help producers in the way they manage their animals to make full use of their genetic potential, while on and ." 

Funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, the test is being developed through the Cooperative Research Center for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), Sheep Genetics – a national genetic information and evaluation service, and CSIRO.

Presenting the research at an international conference in Cairns today, Dr. Kijas is proposing to the International Society of Animal Genetics that the become the global standard for accredited DNA-based parentage testing in sheep.

Traditionally, stud breeders wanting to know the paternity of lambs use the practice of single-sire mating where only one ram is allowed access to a group of fenced-in ewes.

To determine maternity, they can choose to 'mother up' lambs to ewes soon after birth based on their proximity in the paddock. However, ‘mismothering’ is a common and often undetected problem that DNA testing can solve.

With DNA-based parentage testing, producers will get close to 100 per cent accurate assignment of both paternity and maternity without the need for resource intensive practices such as single-sire mating and mothering up.

Dr. Kijas said has not been widely adopted by the sheep industry due to the cost of currently available technologies.

"A major advantage of the DNA markers we have identified is that they work through a technology that’s cheap to deliver. Our objective is a test that costs less than A$20 per animal while providing much higher accuracy than any other approach," Dr. Kijas said.

"This is still some way off, but what we have right now is a set of robustly tested DNA markers that will work efficiently not only in common Australian flocks, but in any sheep breed. The wide applicability of the DNA markers should keep the cost of using them low."

Large-scale trials of the logistics of industry-wide testing will take place over coming months through the Sheep CRC, which will be leading work to commercialise the test.

"As well as aiding long-term breeding goals for improved sheep products, the DNA markers could also open the door for reliable international product trace-back," Dr. Kijas said.

Explore further: How sweet it is: New tool for characterizing plant sugar transporters

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Not the black sheep of domestic animals

Feb 07, 2012

Mapping the ancestry of sheep over the past 11,000 years has revealed that our woolly friends are stars among domestic animals, boasting vast genetic diversity and substantial prospects for continued breeding to further boost ...

New tool to fast-track genetic gain in sheep

Jan 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from CSIRO are part of an international team that today launched a new genomic tool which is set to transform the future selection and breeding of sheep around the world.

DNA test to revolutionise sheep worm control

Jun 23, 2008

CSIRO scientists have moved a step closer to developing a novel DNA test which has the potential to revolutionise management of one of the biggest threats to sheep health in Australia, the barber’s pole ...

Wanted: A sheep in sheep's clothing

Jun 06, 2006

Australian scientists say they are looking for the ugliest merino lambs they can find in a study that may challenge the dominance of synthetic fibers.

Natural selenium coproduct good for sheep

Feb 16, 2012

A more cost-effective, longer-lasting selenium supplement for livestock may soon be available, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist.

Recommended for you

The microbes make the sake brewery

Jul 24, 2014

A sake brewery has its own microbial terroir, meaning the microbial populations found on surfaces in the facility resemble those found in the product, creating the final flavor according to research published ahead of print ...

User comments : 0