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Weekly Update: 18/12/15

DNA workshop meeting Tues 15th Dec

This week many sheep breed society representatives attended a very informative DNA workshop organised by Teagasc and ICBF/Sheep Ireland. This workshop brought together the very best expertise on all things DNA and genomics related. The objective of the workshop was to cover the very basics of how DNA can be used to benefit the dairy, beef and sheep industries while also demonstrating the intricacies of genomic evaluations. The presentations were tailored to cater to a wide audience from the more advanced interests involved in the dairy and beef industries to those just embarking on the genomics journey in the sheep industry.

There was some excellent debate between each presentation on the day and I think all in attendance went away with a far greater level of knowledge on the potential that genomic technology can continue to deliver to the dairy industry and what it will hopefully deliver to the beef and sheep industries in the future.

You can find a Link to a VIDEO of the first presentation HERE. In this Sinead McParland (Teagasc) gives an introduction to Genetics and Genomics. A perfect watch for over the christmas season. It starts at 3:30 min and finishes at 33 min with some Q & A at the end.

Breed society meeting Tues 15th Dec

Follow the DNA workshop we used the opportunity to meet with sheep society representatives again. As mentioned before it is our intention to organise these meetings at least twice each year. The main issues discussed during the recent meeting centred OVIGEN and the possible plans to continue the genotyping of pedigree sheep going forward following on from the free genotyping that has been available to Texel, Charollais, Suffolk, Belclare & Vendeen LambPlus breeders for their adult sheep.


Now that these adult/foundation animals have been genotyped it is critical that new breeding animals entering each flockbook from this point forward get genotyped. While OVIGEN has a very limited budget, there is an opportunity for the research project to subsidise the genotyping of breed animals. OVIGEN will work with each breed society to come up with a plan to implement this genotyping. It is critical that the genotyping of new animals entering each flockbook does not end at this point as the major cost burden associated with genotyping the foundation/adult animals has been covered by OVIGEN. Without this, the costs to breeders to establish this foundation of genotypes would be too great.


At the breed society meeting two significant actions were agreed upon;

  1. For OVIGEN (through Teagasc, UCD & Sheep Ireland) to initiate a pilot project involving 10 flocks across the 5 breeds involved (50 flocks). These flocks will be chosen based on their flock Data Quality Index – the top 10 DQI flocks from each breed will be invited to participate. Each flock will need to collect DNA from their lambs at their own cost and OVIGEN will cover the cost of genotyping 50% of their male lambs. Breeders will be asked to select lambs that will be presented for sale in 2016 where possible. This will mean for the first time ever in Ireland, commercial farmers will be able to purchase DNA parentage verified rams. There will also hopefully be other interesting gene information available on Scrapie etc.
  2. In 2016 the genotyping of replacement females and males can be genotyped by breeders of Texel, Charollais, Suffolk, Belclare & Vendeen breeders at a subsidised cost of €10 per animal. The remainder of the genotyping cost (approx. €22) will be covered by OVIGEN. This offer applies to 2016 only.

Important Notes on the above agreed actions;

The objective of the pilot project will be to develop the necessary systems to facilitate hassle free genotyping of all performance recorded sheep. This will necessitate the development of web screens to allow breeders to view the status of DNA availability of all sheep in their flocks. Breeders will also need a facility to request the genotyping of individual animals, and in turn they will also need a facility to track the progress of genotyping for their animals. The final stage will be the reporting of genotype results.

Significant time and resources will be required to establish these systems before a full roll-out across all LambPlus will be possible, hence the need for a pilot project to develop these systems.


The subsidised genotyping of sheep will hopefully be available to sheep breeders next Autumn and OVIGEN will be communicating with breeders in relation to this throughout the year. Breed societies will play a crucial role in educating breeders about this opportunity and the importance of continuing the genotyping all replacement sheep entering each respective flockbook.


We would like to thank everybody for their contribution during the year and we look forward to another very productive year in 2016. We will close for Christmas on Wednesday 23rd December and return on Monday 4th January 2016Happy Christmas.