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Stackyard News Feb 06

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livestock genetics


Major Milestone in Sheep Genome Sequencing

photo courtesy of
cheviot sheep

The publication of the first major sequences of the sheep genome in the past month has paved the way for exciting breeding-based improvements in the efficiency, health, welfare and environmental sustainability of sheep production across the world.

The sequencing, achieved by collaborators from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand in a project coordinated by the International Sheep Genomics Consortium (ISGC), represents a key milestone in global sheep breeding.

Announcing the breakthrough in the UK on behalf of the Consortium, Chris Warkup of the Roslin-based Genesis Faraday Partnership stresses that unravelling the entire sequence of sheep DNA is still some way off. However, he insists the present development is a particularly critical step on the road towards being able to read the full sheep genome.

”A library of all the DNA of a Texel sheep was produced some time ago,” he explained. “But this is stored in a large number of small fragments. By sequencing the ends of these fragments, the ISGC team has paved the way for a ‘virtual’ sheep genome to be built by matching them to similar sequences in the existing draft cow genome.

“The principal sequencing work was carried out by the Institute of Genome Research in Maryland, USA with funding contributions from various sources including our own Scottish Executive and BBSRC. Having been processed by CSIRO in Australia, the information has now been placed in the public domain at”

Chris Warkup points out that the new information will now be used to develop practical tools for the high throughput mapping of production traits with the aim of identifying genes to improve important characteristics like production efficiency, meat and wool quality and disease and parasite resistance. 

Alongside established breeding techniques, he sees genetic markers for such traits making a major contribution to increasing both the pace and reliability of international sheep production improvement efforts.

“This basic research is the essential building-block for a world of exciting breeding-based improvements in livestock production worldwide,” he emphasised. “Improvements which are vital if we are to satisfy the competing demands of a growing world population, improved animal welfare and greater environmental sustainability.

“It is only through collaborative projects of this nature that we can marshal the necessary expertise and resources to do this fundamental science.  We are determined the UK will play its role in such international efforts so it can reap their full rewards.”

link €23 Million Project to Harness Animal Genetics
link Success For Swalex As Cumbrian Sheep Arrive In Estonia
link New Resource for the UK Livestock Industry

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