The objective of this project is to:
Some of the benefits of the Information Nucleus will flow immediately to industry through enhanced accuracy of the ASBVs provided by Sheep Genetics (SG), as the progeny test data will be included in routine SG genetic evaluations in industry. The longer term benefits to industry will flow from development of sheep genomic technologies such as molecular ASBVs combined with existing quantitative ASBVs for various traits and validation of individual gene tests, which will improve the rate of response to selection in industry as well as providing opportunities for breeders to select for new traits and those that are difficult to measure.
The Information Nucleus will also provide a base resource for the other research programs. These include animals of known genetic background for evaluation of growth, carcass, wool, reproduction and disease resistance. The range of locations and environments provide opportunities for road testing, demonstration and application of technologies from the programs and point of contact with a wide range of producers. A particular focus will be involvement of various stakeholder and producer networks e.g. the suppliers of sire semen. Delivery of genomic technologies has already begun with Pilot Project I in 2010-11and Pilot project II in 2011-12.
The Information Nucleus provides the basic sheep resources for the other CRC research programs. The Information Nucleus is a population of approximately 4250 ewes and their progeny bred from key young industry sires selected for high performance, likely to have industry impact and have genetic variation for a range of traits. The Information Nucleus is managed in several flocks across a range of Australian production environments, with a new sample of sires selected each year. The matings represent the major sheep types in the industry and generate Merino (MxM), Maternal X Merino (MatxM) and Terminal first (TxM) and second cross progeny (TxMat). Breeds crossed with Merinos for maternal progeny include Border Leicester, Dohne, SAMM, Coopworth and Corriedale. Each year 100 young sires with SG information are selected and mated by AI using frozen semen across all sites. The approximate numbers of sires and ewes mated annually and progeny of each type are shown in
the following Table.
Numbers of sires, ewes mated and progeny annually in the Information Nucleus
|40 Merino (M)||1700 M||1445 M x M||723||570|
|20 Maternal (Mat)||850 M||723 BLxM||362||290|
|40 Terminal (T)||850 M||723 BLxM||-||570|
The phenotypes of the progeny are evaluated for a large number of growth, carcass, meat, wool, reproduction and disease traits. The crossbred lambs are grown out and slaughtered in processing plants with industry partners as part of Program 3. Detailed information on carcase and meat traits, meat yield and samples for laboratory testing will be collected. The MxM progeny are evaluated for a wide range of wool performance including new and novel traits as part of Program 2 with the wethers subsequently slaughtered for carcass and meat evaluation. The MxM and MatxM ewes are retained and mated naturally to evaluate reproduction and maternal traits. Blood and tissue samples will also be collected for genotyping and the molecular genetic studies. The Information Nucleus is managed by 5 (850 ewes each) of the research parties (UNE, I&I NSW, DPI Vic, SARDI and DAFWA) with 3 operating as split sites. The sites are at Armidale (UNE), Cowra and Trangie (I&I NSW), Rutherglen and Hamilton (DPI Vic), Turretfield and Struan (SARDI) and Katanning (DAFWA), which cover the major sheep environments in Australia.