National Resource Flock Project

National Resource Flock Project

Funding body

Meat & Livestock Australia

Overview of project and proposed outcomes

The Australian sheep industry is currently funding a national resource flock (RF) project where on an annual basis phenotype information is collected along with genotype information on a large number of sheep. There are two main flocks, one based at the Kirby SMART Farm (1000 ewes) and the second at Katanning, WA (1000 ewes) with a small satellite flock at Temora, NSW (300 ewes).  These animals form the reference population on which genomic prediction can be based. Breeders typically genotype their young rams and use genomic breeding values for traits that they cannot easily measure in their stud such as traits related to meat and eating quality, reproduction and parasite resistance.  In the RF project, 2000 lambs are measured each year for slaughter and carcase traits.  Genomic prediction of meat quality outcomes has enabled selection for an ‘eating quality index’ where breeding animals are selected only based on growth, but also on their meat value, mainly based on intra-muscular fat and tenderness of the meat. Another 3000 ewes in existing sheep studs are measured for reproductive traits and genotyped. Improved breeding values for reproduction will enable selection for increased reproductive rates in the lamb industry. The RF flocks are also suitable for overlay projects, where we want to measure other features or treatments in genetically well-defined resources, for example to look at a nutritional treatment and their genetic, or genetic x environmental interaction aspects. The resource flock project puts Australia in a world leading position to be able to select for these traits through genomic selection.

The current RF contract is entering its final year of lamb drop, and a proposal for a 5 yr renewal of the project will be discussed by the MLA board in May 2018.

Project participants

DAFWA, Murdoch University and commercial producers

Key contact person details

Julius van der Werf

jvanderw@une.edu.au