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Sheepmeat Council : Sheepmeat 2013
CRC FOR SHEEP INDUSTR Cutting edge genetic research and close collaboration with the meat processing sector has delivered the technology and know-how for the sheepmeat industry to increase lean meat yields from carcases and improve eating quality for consumers. The amount of lean, saleable meat on a carcase is a key determinant of the value of a carcase to the processor and retailer, while eating quality determines the price that consumers are prepared to pay for different cuts of meat. Together they set the value of each carcase that ultimately flows through the supply chain to sheep producers and breeders, and by improving both of these facets the Sheep CRC's meat quality research program has delivered productivity opportunities for the full length of the supply chain. "There was a common view in industry and among some scientific circles that lamb is potentially always tender, juicy and flavoursome given its young age," Sheep CRC meat program leader Prof Dave Pethick said. "However, our research found that genetic selection for increased growth and muscling invariably leads to tougher and less flavoursome meat, even when employing best practice meat processing techniques. "Producers are now able to use DNA tests to predict the breeding values to help manage their flocks for eating quality, while also increasing the lean meat yield and productivity of their sheep." Early on in the research program the Sheep CRC engaged with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Australian Meat Processing Corporation (AMPC), as well as leading processing companies including JBS and WAMMCO. It has also collaborated with sheep producers and breeders and major retailers. Early successes in the research program included calibration of the VIAScan measurement equipment to accurately predict lean meat yield, as well as diagnosing problems associated with inconsistent electric stimulation that had been contributing to variable meat quality. Central the CRC's activities and tying together a large multidisciplinary team has been the award-winning Information Nucleus Program, which integrates sophisticated genetic design, measurement of a comprehensive range of more than 100 traits and genotyping using the 50 k SNP-chip. "A reference population such as the Information Nucleus is now recognised as a vital feature for developing and maintaining balanced genetic gain and genomic predictions for the hard to measure traits such as meat eating quality, as well as gaining a better understanding of genetic by environmental interactions for a number of different traits," Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said. "With semen from each ram used at a number of different research sites, the Information Nucleus design allows for accurate analysis of the impact of environment and management on the expression of genetic potential. "It is estimated that with new genomic information now available from the Information Nucleus program it is possible to increase the accuracy of breeding values, and hence rate of genetic improvement, by over seven per cent in meat breeds and by around 20% for Merinos," Prof. Rowe said. The Information Nucleus Program has been responsible for developing genomic predictions for a number of new traits including lean meat yield, intramuscular fat and meat tenderness. Very accurate predictions of parentage and carriers of the horn genes will make it much easier to document pedigree information and for Merino breeders to develop polled flocks. Over the last three years the Sheep CRC has conducted three Genomics Pilot Projects, which have served to evaluate DNA tests as a means of predicting breeding values, and more recently to evaluate commercial-scale use of DNA testing in ram-breeding enterprises. The third Genomics Pilot Project saw approximately 3000 sheep from commercial flocks genotyped using DNA tests -- and around half of these tests were used in large-scale programs with breeders looking to genotype their best breeding stock. At a subsidised rate of $50 a test, the 50k SNP test has provided breeders with a full suite of genomic information upon which to base selection decisions, including predictions for the hard-to-measure traits such as intramuscular fat and worm egg counts. There have also been close to 20,000 tests for parentage and horn gene status, worth $17 each, used this year, providing producers with easy access to parentage information and horn/poll status for key breeding stock. "The potential of DNA technology has now progressed from being a research concept to a commercial reality -- during 2013 genotyping tests will be sold, without subsidy, at around $50 a test and with no limitations on the number of tests a producer can purchase," Prof. Rowe said. "It's now time for industry to take hold of these new tools to help breed more profitable and productive sheep." Transforming wool, meat and the sheep that produce them CRC collaboration delivers for sheep meat supply chain The Information Nucleus is a vital tool for developing and maintaining balanced genetic gain and genomic predictions for the hard to measure traits such as meat eating quality.