DNA with bite

Location: Ardlethan, NSW

Enterprise: Pendarra White Suffolk Stud and member of the Superwhites group

Producer: Murray Long

Soil type: Red loams

Two syndicates of terminal sire breeders, Meat Elite and Superwhites, are implementing state-of-the-art breeding programs through commercial-scale use of new genomic technologies.

The focus for both groups is to use DNA testing to identify breeding animals carrying genes for tenderness and eating quality. 

By placing meat quality traits at the forefront of genetic selection during ram breeding, these groups are moving to position their breeders as key suppliers of rams that 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,” Superwhites’ spokesman Murray Long said. Murray, from Pendarra White Suffolk stud at Ardlethan, NSW, is also immediate past President of the Australian White Suffolk Association. 

The Superwhites and Meat Elite groups are two of the nine stud breeding operations participating in commercial-scale DNA trials through the Sheep CRC’s third Genomics Pilot Project. The research program aims to define the most effective use of the new technologies in practical breeding programs. 

More than 1,500 DNA tests were allocated for use by these early-adopting studs, with a further 1,500 tests for smaller-scale testing by sheep breeders across the country.

“Breeding values for intramuscular fat and tenderness will now be considered when selecting ram lamb sires for use across the group,” Murray said.

“Good scores for meat eating qualities may lead to the selection of an animal that wouldn’t have been chosen for weight, fat and muscle alone. Similarly, if an animal is strong across these ASBVs but has poor results for intramuscular fat and tenderness, it won’t be selected. 

“This year, research breeding values for meat eating quality will be a mandatory selection criteria for the nominated ram lambs, of which about eight are selected as sires for use across the group.” 

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, as well as select younger animals for faster rates of genetic gain.

Genomic testing of about 20% of a stud’s top young rams will provide cost-effective information to assist selection decisions for the next generation.

Ardlethan, NSW
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