Discounted sheep genotyping available to pedigree breeders

Sheep Ireland has announced details of the next phase of Ovigen – the sheep genomics research project – which is set to offer heavily-discounted genotyping to pedigree breeders.

The next phase of the project, which will focus on Texel, Charollais, Suffolk, Belclare, Vendeen and Beltex sheep, will be available to breeders that participated in the initial stages of the project.

Speaking at a recent industry meeting, Sheep Ireland’s Eamon Wall said a large proportion of flocks have now been genotyped. But, there are still 2015 and 2016-born females that have yet to be tested.

“If we leave it another year, there will be a large proportion of flocks that wouldn’t have genotyped animals and we would be back at square one with un-genotyped flocks.”

The critical thing is to try and maintain genotyped flocks, he said, for the validation of parentage and the long-term benefits of genomic evaluations.

Wall also said that Sheep Ireland is looking for farmers to submit samples from the females in their flocks, while flock sires should also be given priority when selecting which animals to have tested.

He added that 2017-born ewe lambs are less of a priority as many breeders don’t know which will actually be retained within their flocks.

In addition, the Sheep Ireland Programme Lead said farmers can get samples from animals whose tests failed under the previous tranche of the programme re-tested for free.

How much will it cost?

Touching on costs, Wall said there is still a level of funding available in the Ovigen budget and it will be used to subsidise the cost of genotyping.

The actual genotyping cost to breeders for females will be €3 for the genotype. Where there is a tag required, we are going to have to ask the breeder to cover the cost of that tag.

“For males, it’s a slightly higher rate of €6,” he said.

The genotyping tags will cost approximately €2 each and farmers need to keep in mind that a new tagger may also be required.

“We will need to use a third tag for the vast majority of animals. It will be in the form of a button tag – that’s the current plan.

“I know a lot of breeders maybe don’t like the idea of a third tag in an animal, especially in a lamb, but this is really the only way at present that we can do this,” he said.

Wall added that this third tag can be useful in cases where there are issues with mismatches in parentage or other errors.

“You can check to see was the right tag put into the right animal,” he said.