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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Genetic and Genomic research

Posted by Bestprac on Jul 03 2012

Dear Woolgrowers and Industry Stakeholders,

I wanted to write to you to confirm Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is committed to meaningful and relevant genetic and genomic research. However to gain investment, projects must show a feasible plan for industry uptake.

Over the last decade AWI has committed $26.6 million to genetic and genomic research, representing approximately 15% of the total on-farm R&D investment. This amount is in addition to a similar contribution from Meat and Livestock Australia and the Federal Government.

Major projects include Sheep Genetics Australia MerinoSelect, Sheep CRC2, SARDI Demonstration Flock, Sheep Genomics Falkiner project, wether trials, Sire Evaluation, development of visual trait guides and trials for breech strike resistance. The majority of these projects receive ongoing annual AWI investment, in fact we currently have funding going towards 7 of the 10 Merino research flocks that we are aware of existing in Australia at the moment.

Up to 15% of active Merino studs are routinely adopting the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values. To attract additional investment in this area the AWI Board requires a greater commercial uptake of this technology as well as improved co-ordination of all genetic selection tools and a clearly articulated plan as to how this will be achieved.

With recent media comment regarding the future of the Information Nucleus Flock (INF), AWI is taking the unusual step of clarifying the reasoning and process behind the decision to not fund the Information Nucleus Flock II (INF2). AWI receives hundreds of proposals a year, the details of which are treated confidentially.

The INF2 project proposal has repeatedly failed to gain AWI Board approval as it has not adequately demonstrated a path to gain broad industry involvement and support. The major beneficiaries of AWI funding via INF2 must be the entire industry. Added to this, there were significant commercial risks to the INF2 investment as the project was overly reliant on the cost of external technology falling to a reasonable level. For example the cost of genotyping is currently in the order of $130 and would have to drop to about $20 before a significant uptake is expected. A detailed list explaining the shortcoming in the proposal was provided to the Sheep CRC immediately following the Board's decision in December 2011.

We continue to pursue new and practical genetic and genomic research proposals including a project that will offer a bridge to the genomic research carried out so far as well as the greater industry. Issues AWI is looking to address include staple strength, reproductive efficiency/lamb survival, feed efficiency, early life and lifetime productivity traits, sheep selection and measurement of genetic gain.

Continued research into the sheep genome as well as genetic selection tools must benefit breeders and commercial woolgrowers alike, irrespective of their preference to date towards objective or subjective selection methods.

The current AWI Review of Performance consultants have made a study of the process behind the INF2 funding decision. The full report on AWI’s performance over the 2009/10 – 11/12 period will be available as part of the Wool Poll documentation and we welcome this analysis as always.

Yours sincerely Stuart McCullough, AWI CEO and Walter Merriman, AWI Chairman
 

Last changed: Jul 05 2012

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