DNA tests quality of live sheep

Monday, June 06, 2011

Australian scientists are confident they can now tell the eating quality of a lamb while the animal is still alive.

In fact they are confident that such epicurean qualities can now be determined at the point of birth.

It is as simple as taking a DNA sample from a lamb and using the latest in genetic analysis - the SNP or single nucleotide polymorphisms - to determine a lamb's propensity to produce intra-muscular fat and a loin muscle with a low shear force.

Both measures, following extensive local research at Western Australia's Murdoch University and the Sheep Co-operative Research Centre (CRC), are critical indicators of a lamb's eating quality.

Last week the Sheep CRC released details of these quality traits along with four other lamb carcass traits that can be identified with DNA SNP analysis.

The other traits were for lean meat yields, carcass weight, eye muscle and fat depths.

Sheep CRC chief executive Dr James Rowe said the analyses were still in the research phase though there was already one year of on-farm testing with another season of pilot trials scheduled for this year.

While the carcass weight and eye muscle and fat depth have been measured and reported as Lambplan breeding values for several decades, Dr Rowe said the DNA analysis would improve the accuracy of the traits.

"But the beauty of the DNA analysis for the lean meat yield, intra-muscular fat and shear force traits was that they were hard-to-measure traits, which, until now, could only be assessed on a processed animal or through extensive consumer evaluation," Dr Rowe said.

He was also confident the release of the carcass traits would be timely to prevent the prime lamb industry damaging its eating quality reputation through any pre-occupation with growth rates and lean meat yield.

Validation of the DNA analysis for carcass traits is part of the Sheep CRC seven-year Information Nucleus program, where the progeny of research flocks of Merino, and terminal and maternal breeds have been extensively evaluated and analysed for an exhaustive array of wool, carcass, growth and animal health traits.

The release of the carcass traits last week followed the release earlier this year of several wool traits.

Dr Rowe envisaged that once the DNA SNP analysis was commercially available, stud breeders would be paying between $50-$100 for a once-off analysis of traits.

Dr Rowe said the analyses would be combined and reported with the existing sheep breeding values, currently administered by Sheep Genetics.   



Live export ban bill

Monday, June 06, 2011

Independant MP Andrew Wilkie wants to ban all live exports within three years.

The Tasmanian independent will meet with Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig this afternoon to outline his private member’s bill to immediately ban cattle exports to Indonesia and a three-year phrase out plan for all live trade.



Lotfeeding a prime proposition

Thursday, June 02, 2011
  

There's a certain amount of passion required to lotfeed large numbers of sheep. This is particularly the case if you have anywhere between 5000 to 7000 sheep going through a feedlot each year, such as the two at Brad and Jan Eastough's property between Northampton and Chapman Valley.

In 2002 Brad and Jan moved to Utikka and they farm together with Brad's brother Ashley, his wife Belinda and their parents Kevin and Maureen, over the six properties that make up their 5400 hectare farm.

Brad admits he had always wanted to run as many sheep as possible.

"I would rather run sheep than cropping," Brad said. "What's better than working outdoors on the best days of the year, instead of sitting in an air-conditioned cab?"

Even though the Eastough family has seen their share of tough years and devastating droughts, Brad held onto his sheep when many in the area couldn't. They started lotfeeding sheep in 2006 and purchased any breed of sheep he could from surrounding areas, as many farmers needed to off-load their numbers due to the drought.

"I had always wanted to do it (lotfeeding) and then in 2006 when there was a drought we built a feedlot here," Brad said. "We bought a lot of sheep that were going cheap in the area and later we purchased our own stock truck to cut down on freight."

Even though nearly every type of breed might be purchased to go onto feed for 21 to 28 days, Brad remains truthful to his own flock of 1000 mated Merino ewes, 1000 older Merino ewes mated to Poll Dorset and 350 Merino ewe hoggets.

The Poll Dorsets were purchased in addition to the Eastough's traditional Merino flock 16 years ago and Brad chose the breed for its white wool, good pool of genetics and large frame. After being mated for the first few years with Merino rams, the Merino ewes were then joined with Poll Dorset rams when they reach four years to produce lambs for the prime lamb market.

With a sire battery of 16 Merino rams and 40 Poll Dorset rams, many of which are from the Eastough's own breeding program, the Poll Dorsets are joined on October 25, while the Merino rams are joined on New Year's Eve.

For more on this story, please go to : http://fw.farmonline.com.au/news/state/livestock/sheep/lotfeeding-a-prime-proposition/2175805.aspx?storypage=1

     

Scone Yard at Forefront With NLIS

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Maintaining its position as a leading saleyard was the only incentive the Upper Hunter Shire Council needed to make an early move on providing full traceability for cattle under the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).  Now, with three months to go before implementation date, Council is ready to play its part - with plenty of time to iron out technicalities.

The key to its success has been open communication with an active saleyard committee comprising agents, vendors and buyers, representatives of Council, and the community.

Council's Manager of Technical Support, Coleen Pinkerton, said cooperation and a long lead time had allowed the committee to fully explore its options. "Last year our saleyards committee inspected several saleyards and different systems in Victoria to see which system would be best for us," Ms. Pinkerton said. "Our biggest decision was where to put the Aleis multi-read scanner - before or after the ring.

"We finally decided on after-ring placement and that appears to be a good decision. We have been using it for EU scanning,  and the flow of cattle from the ring through the scanner has been very smooth."

Scone is the tenth largest cattle saleyard in the state with an average annual throughout of 82,000 head, and well supported by many domestic and export abattoirs.

With some concern that the multi-read scanner would slow the system down and bruise cattle, Council trialed a mocked-up version of the proposed system to allay any fears. Saleyard Supervisor Steve Kemp said since the Aleis system had been installed there had been no reports of bruising from buyers or the abattoirs, and the sales had not slowed.

"We have averaged 85 lots an hour during the last 12 months, and when we put the scanner in, that figure didn't decrease at all.  In fact there was one sale where we got up to 90 lots an hour," Mr Kemp said.  While his initial reaction to NLIS was "here's another imposition on us," Mr Kemp was keen to make it happen once he had time to digest what was involved.

"We don't anticipate a problem with NLIS in this saleyard from an operational point of view. Cattle leave the sale ring and go through the exit scanner and the information is downloaded onto the system at the end of the sale. My only concern is how the database will cope with the influx of information coming through on July 1, but we have plenty of time to test this."

Agents hope to pre-scan cattle the night before allowing the vendor time to overcome any problems. Panel scanners will be installed near the loading ramps in preparation for scanning in and out of the saleyards.

Council received a 5.0 per cent grant for the installation of NLIS from the State Government and expects to recoup its share (336,000) within three years.



New Technology

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

On a remote cattle station some time into the future, the phone rings. A buyer has a boat going to Indonesia at the end of the week and the weight range is 270-340 kgs.

"How many can you supply?" the voice asks.

Traditionally, the pastoralist would give an estimate and then get the mob in to check the weights. Today though, our farmer makes a few clicks on his mouse. Sensors at watering points have enabled the weight of individual cattle to be recorded daily and he can see straight away he will have 22 decks in that range. The deal is done over the phone and a few minutes later,  the trucks have been ordered without even sighting a beast.

The technology is not as far-fetched as it sounds and after the success of trials at Napperby Station, north-west of Alice Springs, could be available to individual producers within the year.

It is the application in the saleyard, however, that could really make a difference to their business, delivering the pot of gold of the beef export industry—lifetime traceability.

"The talk at the moment is that lifetime traceability could be worth up to 20 cents more a kilo as the industry looks to expand into new markets around the world," says Tim Driver, Director of CAWD Livestock, the company that developed the technology.

Driver is at the Bohning Yards at Alice Springs overseeing the demonstration of the sensors to the executive members of the Northern Territory  (NT) Cattlemen's Association.

CAWD Livestock was given a brief by the association to develop an automatic drafting system that would identify and separate cattle that either had a faulty National Livestock Identification  (NLIS) Scheme tag or no tag at all.

While similar systems have been developed over the years, they wanted one that could read from either direction, something that previously had been an impediment.

"This system is unique," Driver says.

"There are a few around that were trialed when the NLIS was first introduced, but I believe this is the only multi-directional drafter that exists. The cattle can run either left to right or right to left through the machine with draft gates or slide gates at either end so it doesn't matter which direction the animals are going, we can still draft them. It just makes installation in yards a lot easier."

Driver says the trial at the Bohning Yards will hopefully be the start of a national rollout into saleyards and feedlots across Australia. "This technology has applications anywhere cattle are traded," he says.
"The main benefit for producers will be that they can send their cattle to the yards and know that all their tags are read and their NLIS data transfers are right. "Hopefully if their cattle are lifetime traceable, they should receive a bit of extra money."

At Bohning, as a demonstration mob moves through the race with the NT cattlemen looking on, Driver reflects on the project that took him around the world in search of information. "We've been working on this sort of technology for 3 to 3 1/2  years, very much starting from scratch," he said.

"We were given an idea about revisiting how animals are managed and we've basically, with a lot of consulting and consultation with producers, built a system from the ground up. I tell you, it's been a very interesting and exciting road. It is an amazing feeling to build a product like this that you can see can have such a major benefit to the industry."



Jandowae Firm Pioneers Laneway Sheep Scanning

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

 Sheep can now be identified electronically, thanks to a major breakthrough in laneway scanning developed by Jandowae-based company Aleis.

The lane way scanning has successfully identified electronic National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) ear tags in sheep.

Describing the trial as a resounding success, Aleis CFO John Finlayson, Jnr. said the Australian sheep industry needed an effective sheep identification and tracking system to enable serious disease outbreaks to be quickly contained.

"Interest in the use of electronic technology is increasing, particularly on large wool growing properties and within sheep meat supply chains," Mr. Finlayson said. "The Victorian Government is now actively promoting the voluntary use of electronic NLIS (sheep) tags as an alternative to the current sheep tracking system, which is based on paper records and visually readable tap.

"The sheep industry has insisted that electronic technology must facilitate the reading of sheep running three or four abreast along a lane way.  Aleis has developed and successfully demonstrated a reader that will achieve this level of performance with 100% reading accuracy," Mr Finlayson said.

"Representatives from the sheep industry,  Meat and Livestock Australia , and Queensland DPI & F were invited to a demonstration of the Akio reader at Kiticorra on November 21 at which the Aleis lane way reader read more than 8OO sheep that had been identified with electronic NLIS sheep tags without missing a sheep."

Mr. Finlayson said the Aleis laneway reader was designed for use in very high throughput situations, such as in a saleyard or feedlot.  Aleis had unequivocally demonstrated that the reader would efficiently and accurately read sheep identified with NLIS (sheep) tags at commercial speeds.  Aleis also had a range of reliable wand and panel readers suitable for use in other less demanding situations.

"The sheep industry can now move forward with confidence with the use of electronics NLIS (sheep) ear tags containing internationally recognised half duplex technology," Mr. Finlayson said.

"This is the technology platform adopted by Australia's NLIS (cattle) system  and now being utilised in the recently accredited electronic NLIS (sheep) tag being supplied nationally by Allflex."

Aleis International is developing a close working relationship with the sheep industry, along with government agencies, to provide electronic ear tag reading equipment for on-farm, saleyard, feedlot, live export, and processing applications.




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