A syndicate of leading White Suffolk breeders is adopting large-scale DNA testing to identify breeding animals carrying genes for tenderness and eating quality.
By placing meat quality traits at the forefront of its genetic selection during ram breeding, the Superwhite group is positioning itself as a key supplier of rams which will help industry continue to meet consumer demands for tender and flavoursome lamb.
“Meat eating quality is too important to ignore. “As consumer choice increases you can’t have your genetics years behind market demand,” Australian White Suffolk Association president and Superwhites spokesman Murray Long, of Pendarra White Suffolk Stud, Ardlethan, said.
Superwhites is one of nine stud breeding operations participating in commercial-scale DNA trials being conducted through the Genomics Pilot Project being run by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).
More than 1500 DNA tests were allocated for use by these early adopting studs, with a further 1500 tests allocated for smaller scale testing by sheep breeders across the country as part of the research program aimed at defining the most effective use of the new technologies in practical breeding programs.
The new genomic testing program requires every member to test at least 10 sires in their young ram drop, resulting in at least 200 young animals being tested for meat eating breeding values.
The nominated eight top rams are then used as sires across the member group along with a link sire.
It is expected that the accuracy levels of estimated breeding values will further improve as a result of the additional data collected during the Genomics Pilot Project and through the Information Nucleus Flock program.
These breeding values help breeders to accurately predict which rams will produce the desired traits in their progeny.
Another benefit of the genomic testing is that it allows selection of younger animals and this contributes to delivering faster improvements to the genetic gain in Australia’s sheep flocks.
The cost of DNA testing is continuing to fall and future DNA testing to be offered through Sheep Genetics is expected to be around the $50 cost of the research Pilot Project testing program, but without any restrictions on the number of tests.