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Goat Industry Leading Sheep On Genomics

10 July 2014

UK – Goat farmers are ahead of the UK sheep industry in terms of genomic selection, according to a leading livestock geneticist.

This is despite the huge benefits of selecting genes for certain requirements, which Dr Joanne Conington of the Scottish Rural College says can improve sheep productivity and profitability.

Falling behind the goat industry should be a ‘red rag’ to sheep farmers, she told farmers at a recent Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) Flock Science Day.

She said that a large dairy goat herd had approached the SRUC and worked on a number of projects and had Estimated Breeding Values for its herd within a year.

Her message was that genomic selection is here to stay and should be embraced – the sooner the better.

“We will routinely be using genomic selection by 2020,” she said.

“We need a coordinated effort from the industry to push this forward.”

The principal obstacle for many farms is data collection. In order to achieve a reliable accuracy you need 100,000 records, she explained.

“Getting large numbers is unrealistic for smaller breeds.

“But it should be easy for something like the Texel breed with around 350,000 animals.”

Farmers heard that data collection is not constraining the New Zealand sheep sector, where flock sizes are greater.

Dr Conington outlined a pertinent breeding objective, a live and accurate database and a world class breeding programme as three ‘must haves’.

“New Zealand has much bigger farms than us, so it goes to show if you want to do it you can,” said Dr Conington. “The technology is there, we also need the will and mentality to get it right.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms.

Top image via Shutterstock

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