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HomeFarming NewsGenotyping: Benefits, costs, and SIS rule
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Genotyping: Benefits, costs, and SIS rule

Genotyping Sheep

The DAFM has confirmed that under the New Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS), farmers will be required to carry out the genotyping ram action at least once – depending on their flock size – during the contract’s lifetime.

Under this action, all applicants will be required to purchase and use a ram in the first three years of the scheme.

Where a farmer has a reference number greater than 150 breeding ewes, they will have to carry out the genotyped ram action twice over the scheme’s lifetime.

Applicants will select the year or years in which they will carry out the genotyped ram action when applying to participate in the scheme.

According to the DAFM, if you are farming a lowland flock, the ram must be:

  • Four or five-star on the replacement or terminal index;
  • Have a genomic evaluation with Sheep Ireland at the time of purchase;
  • Be a type one, two or three for Scrapie.
  • No type 4 or 5 scrapie genotyped rams will qualify.

Hill flock

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Meanwhile, if you are farming a hill flock, if the ram is a Scottish Blackface-type or a Cheviot, the ram only needs to be:

  • DNA sire verified by Sheep Ireland;
  • Type one, two or three for Scrapie at the time of purchase.

Alternatively, hill flock participants may purchase:

  • A four- or five-star ram on the replacement or terminal index;
  • Have a genomic evaluation with Sheep Ireland at the time of purchase;
  • Be a type one, two or three for Scrapie;
  • No type 4 or 5 scrapie genotyped rams will qualify.
Genotyping on time

“Genotype on time without delay” was one of the main messages that Sheep Ireland’s David Coen conveyed during Teagasc’s recent Ovicast podcast series.

The sheep breeding data field technician urged commercial and pedigree breeders to ensure that rams are genotyped and advised them to make use of Sheep Ireland’s ram search facility.

According to Coen, up to 70,000 animals have been genetically tested with Sheep Ireland to date, 6,000 of which have been genotyped this year.

He said that between 8-9% of parents are recorded incorrectly, which could be partly due to “a touch of human error”.

He added that breed societies, in a welcomed move, have implemented genotyping for premier sales to ensure parentages are correct.

The provision of information is one primary benefit of genotyping that he highlighted.

He told Ciaran Lynch, presenter: “Genotyping can provide DAFM-approved scrapie genotypes, parentage verification and prediction, genomic evaluations (€uro-stars), inbreeding coefficient results or detect major or lethal genes that may impact animal performance within particular breeds.”

Genomic services

He also provided a step-by-step guide on how sheep farmers can avail of genomic services:

  • Logon onto Sheep Ireland account;
  • Go to the management tab and select genomic ordering scheme from the drop-down menu, which displays your full list of rams;
  • Stock rams are flagged in orange;
  • Select sheep you wish to genotype;
  • You also have the option of adding a tagger to your order;
  • Review your order, and once satisfied, input payment details for processing;
  • You can track your order via Sheep Ireland’s website;
  • Tags will arrive from Cormac Tagging via post, generally within 3-5 days;
  • Tag ram with green tag – leave green tag in;
  • Place sample in envelope supplied with tag order;
  • Post to Weatherby’s Lab;
  • Could take between 2, 3 or 4 weeks for results – depending on time of year;
  • Results issued to Sheep Ireland – has automatic quality control with parentage verification;
  • Data available to breeders via the ‘Genomic Results’ screen on Sheep Ireland account.

Coen outlined that genotyping costs have decreased in recent years, and farmers can avail of subsidies to perform this action.

  • Breeders not part of Lamb Plus programme, costing breeder €24.50/ram;
  • Lamb Plus members and hill breeders can avail of Sheep Ireland’s €9.50 subsidy towards the cost, which equates to €15/ram;
  • Some breed societies contributing subsidies towards genotyping to reduce costs for pedigree breeders;
  • Once genotyped once, ram is genotyped for life – do not have to repeat action

Freelance writer, Alicia Temple, looked at the Sheep Improvement Scheme in more detail in this news article.

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