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Information Nucleus Project - Design and Analysis

Project Leader

Professor Julius van der Werf
University of New England
Tel: 02 6773 2092
Email -

About the Project

The objective of this project is:

  • To develop the design for the Information Nucleus
  • To assist in selection of sires in collaboration with Sheep Genetics (SG)
  • Ongoing optimisation of the design and implication of SNP panel testing
  • To design sampling and specifications for genotyping of progeny
  • To undertake quantitative and molecular genetic analysis for new and existing survival and reproduction, disease, wool and meat traits
  • To develop applications of genetic technologies for future sheep breeding programs

It should be noted that outcomes, milestones and tasks in relation to analysis of phenotypic data from the IN are listed within the various programs for sheep, wool and meat.

Business Case

The project will ensure that maximum information is obtained for the given resources. The objective is to obtain accurate estimation of genetic parameters as well to provide a phenotypic resource suitable for whole genome association studies. The project will explore the most appropriate models for genetic analysis, and suggest suitable models for genetic evaluation by SG. The whole genome association study will explore the possibility of genomic selection, by obtaining experimental evidence about its utility, as well as by devising optimal ways to use such information in the industry. Early estimates suggest that the phenotypic information from the IN could increase genetic improvement by 5% whereas successful implementation of genomic selection could increase such gains by 25% for terminals to 35% for Merinos.


The Information Nucleus is a unique concept, which integrates sophisticated genetic design and analysis with comprehensive measurement of biological and production parameters. The Information Nucleus progeny tests key young industry sires for an extensive range of traits in differing environments. The matings represent the major production types in the sheep industry and generate Merino (MxM), Maternal X Merino (MatxM) and Terminal first (TxM) and second cross progeny (TxMatM). The progeny are evaluated for a large number of growth, carcass, meat, wool, reproduction and disease traits. The sires used are selected from high performance (SG data) young rams that are likely to have industry impact and capture genetic variation for a range of traits. Performance data will flow immediately into the SG database which will enhance the accuracy of Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) by increasing progeny information and linkage across flocks and environments to increase genetic gain in industry. The Information Nucleus will also generate genetic information about new and novel traits and traits that are difficult or expensive to measure on-farm that may be related to wool and meat quality, disease resistance and reproductive fitness. This will provide genetic parameters for traits such as staple strength, meat eating quality, carcass yield and feed efficiency. A focus will also be to assess genetic variation and opportunities for improvement of new and novel quality traits such as wool UV colour stability and human nutritional traits of meat. The genetic analysis will provide the parameters for the possible inclusion of these new traits in SG.

A unique aspect of the Information Nucleus is that it will be able to investigate the power of high-density whole-genome molecular marker technologies. High density marker assays based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) will be validated and further developed in the Information Nucleus for their ability to map genetic variation across the whole genome. The aim of this technology is to accurately predict molecular ASBV for many traits in young breeding animals. The first high density SNP chip for sheep became available in 2008 and allows cost-effective genotyping of sixty thousand genetic markers in a single assay. The sheep CRC will genotype a substantial proportion of the INF progeny each year and it will combine this information with genotypic and phenotypic information from the Sheep Genomics Project (Falkiner Flock) for a whole genome analysis with the aim to predict genomic breeding values of young breeding animals.