Animal Genetics Research

Areas of Research

Research in livestock genetics involves the application of quantitative genetics to animal production systems.

Our research in animal science, in broad terms, relates to

  • determination of breeding objectives (economic values, biological relationships between traits, systems optimisation)
  • genetic evaluation (linear models, data analysis, estimation of genetic parameters, estimation of breeding values)
  • design and optimisation of breeding programs (inbreeding avoidance, optimising response, use of genetic markers, use of reproductive technologies and progeny testing)

Current Research

One of our current areas of research focus is related to the use of genomic information in genetic evaluation and selection programs.

The world of genetics is facing very rapid changes with the sequencing of genomes of various species, and with the development of molecular genetic tools. These developments are stimulating a change in attitude and approach to biological research. What is often a reductionist science is becoming more holistic. What used to be event-driven is becoming increasingly data-driven, an information-centred science. Biology has become big. High-throughput techniques churning out huge amounts of data are the norm. Databases are growing exponentially.

Molecular information on SNP chips containing genotypes for tens of thousands of gene markers may help us to more accurately predict breeding value of all agricultural species plant, animal and bacterial. Gene expression data on thousands of genes has become available, and tells us which genes are active in different defined biological processes. Such new information provides exciting challenges to unravel the processes and the components that cause genetic variation and phenotypic variation in animal populations.

The genetics group at UNE is actively involved in the development of methods to analyse this new microarray, microsatellite and SNP chip data, as well as creating tools to better integrate and use these sources of data along with existing phenotypic and biological information to generate new knowledge for livestock production. Strong links with industry, and the potential large impact of these developments on genetic improvement make interesting challenges for usefully implementing this new knowledge in existing breeding programs.

We conduct research and training collaboratively with the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU). AGBU is world famous for its success in delivering research and useful breeding programs to a diverse range of primary industries.