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Stackyard News Jun 06

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Gene Markers Boost Performance

The success of a project to incorporate new gene markers into existing sheep breeding systems will allow UK sheep producers to take advantage of the latest genetic technology according to representatives from the Charollais, Suffolk and Texel breeds.

© photo courtesy


MASACS*, a project that has been underway since June 2004 has already identified DNA markers for muscle depth and worm resistance and ways to use these to strengthen performance recording.

MLC Senior Geneticist Gert Nieuwhof said: "Commercial ram breeders should be aware that with new genetic markers becoming commercially available soon, there is a opportunity to use such information along with current recording systems in order to make sustained improvements to performance and other traits such as disease resistance".

Jonathan Barber of Charollais Sires stated: "MASACS will provide an infrastructure to allow the incorporation of these markers into enhanced EBVs, and software development is underway to allow this.

"Importantly, this system will provide a platform to incorporate new genetic markers and genetic technologies to be delivered to UK sheep producers and incorporated into existing breeding systems".

Chief Executive of the Texel Sheep Society Steve McLean said: "A major strength of the project is that it incorporates all the important players in the UK breeding industry including major breed societies, the MLC and Signet, Roslin Institute, the Edinburgh Genetic Evaluations Unit and also BASCO".

Prof. Steve Bishop, Roslin Institute, project leader commented: "It is important to note that these new markers will provide supplementary information to enhance current EBVs in Marker Assisted Selection breeding programmes.

"The markers identified give greater assurance with regard to muscle depth which will mean the commercial farmer will have far greater confidence that this ram will outperform unrecorded rams".

MASACS - Marker Assisted Selection Applied to Commercial Sheep. A gene marker is a position on a chromosome linked to a trait of interest.

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