Industry benefits from using genomic information in two- and three-tier sheep breeding systems
Horton, BJ and Banks, RG and van der Werf, JHJ, Industry benefits from using genomic information in two- and three-tier sheep breeding systems, Animal Production Science, 55, (4) pp. 437-446. ISSN 1836-0939 (2015) [Refereed Article]
A model of the sheep breeding industry with nucleus flocks, multiplier flocks and commercial sheep flocks was used to examine the value of genomic selection. The model reflected a dual-purpose Merino breeding objective, with genomic information improving selection accuracy by 39% for rams at 6 months of age and by 17% at 18 months. The current level of net dollar benefit to the sheep industry from selection, but without genomic testing, can be improved by 10–14% for a closed three-tiered breeding structure with rams used at 18 months. If the rams are first used at 6–7 months then the dollar gains can be improved by 15–17%, since genomic information can provide proportionately greater gains for young animals that have limited phenotypic information. In a two-tiered breeding system, with nucleus flocks selling rams direct to commercial producers, rather than through multiplier flocks, the dollar gains to industry from genomic testing increased to ~12–13% for rams bred at 18 months, and 20–22% if nucleus rams are used at 6–7 months. The optimal structure requires two-stage selection, with an initial selection based on information available without genomic testing, to limit the cost of testing to only the superior rams. However, the optimum proportion of rams tested depends on the system and the cost of testing. In order to recover the cost of genomic testing, the nucleus flocks must recover up to 5% of the extra genetic gain as extra profit from sale of rams to commercial sheep producers.