New DNA testing lab for sheep

SHEEP BREEDING using DNA testing should be a little easier now thanks to a new genomic testing laboratory in Gatton, Queensland.
New DNA testing lab for sheep New DNA testing lab for sheep New DNA testing lab for sheep New DNA testing lab for sheep New DNA testing lab for sheep

Mark Saunders

The new lab, owned by Neogen Corporation, should allow DNA testing for sheep to be turned around faster than previously possible, as samples had to be sent overseas.

GeneSeek Australasia, a wholly owned subsidiary of United States-based parent company Neogen, has acquired the assets of the Animal Genetics Laboratory (AGL), based at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland (UQ). It is Neogen’s fourth animal genomics laboratory, joining locations in the US, Scotland, and Brazil.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has led the development of DNA testing within the Australian sheep industry and has worked in collaboration with Neogen’s GeneSeek laboratories since the start of the Information Nucleus program in 2007.

“GeneSeek has always provided competitive pricing and excellent quality control but until now all tests had to be shipped to the US for processing,” Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said.

“While the range of DNA test products we have developed has proven to be immensely valuable to sheep breeders, the turnaround time from taking blood samples to receiving results has been the biggest single factor limiting wider uptake of genomic technologies within the Australian sheep industry.

“Today’s announcement is a major development which will help consolidate the use of DNA technologies and support accelerated genetic improvement in our flocks.”

Prof. Rowe said the new lab would result in faster and more consistent turnaround time. Sending samples to the US has involved variable turnaround time due to couriers, occasional US customs delays and some repeat analyses. Having an Australian based lab will resolve most of these problems.

The new lab aims to reduce the typical turnaround time from 10 weeks to or more to about three weeks.

Dr Jason Lilly, Neogen’s vice president of corporate development and Director of GeneSeek AustralAsia, said that as Neogen’s business in Australia had grown, the company had recognized the importance of improving its presence in the local market and its service to strategic partners such as the Sheep CRC.

“Combining AGL's complementary expertise and local support with GeneSeek’s animal genomic capabilities, will provide Australian sheep producers with the utmost in local service, turnaround time, and technical support,” Dr Lilly said.

The lab will feature the latest equipment and will be compatible with the recent developments in the parentage and 15k multi-trait genotyping tests for the Australian sheep industry. 

As an example, a Merino Poll/Horn test, which provides an opportunity for breeders to identify Polled/Horned sires and dams to speed up progress towards a purely poll flock in Merinos, will cost $21 plus GST per test.

A sheep genotyping test is now the standard test used by industry to genotype animals. It is available for the four major breeds – Merino, Poll Dorset, White Suffolk and Border Leicester and will cost $35 plus GST per sheep.