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Beyond the Bale : Feb 07 - Mar 07
Ateam of international scientists, led by CSIRO and funded in part by AWI, has constructed a virtual map of the genome of the sheep. The 'virtual sheep genome' -- a physical DNA map, which arranges more than 98 per cent of the sheep genome from the only eight per cent known of the sequence -- has been made available by CSIRO. It contains the 'best bet' about where the sheep's vast amount of hereditary information can be found on its 26 paired chromosomes. The new sheep genome map will now fast-track the identification of the crucial genes responsible for sheep health and productivity, as well as for wool and meat quality. It is set to speed up the development of DNA marker tests, which will allow sheep breeders to more quickly identify and select animals with superior traits. DNA marker tests will be particularly useful for determining parentage and positively identifying animals with traits that are difficult or expensive to measure in the live animal. They will also enable selection decisions to be made early in the animal's life since they only require analysis of a blood sample, which can be taken at any stage. Dr Brian Dalrymple, a bioinformatics scientist from CSIRO Livestock Industries in Brisbane who leads the research, says his team drew on components of the $3 billion human genome project and also on work already done on the dog and cow genomes. CSIRO was also a partner in the US$53 million Bovine Genome Sequencing Project and has applied that expertise to the sheep. "Internationally, there has been substantial genomics research undertaken on cattle, with a near-complete cow genome sequence now publicly available," Dr Dalrymple says. "The genes for sheep are similar to the genes for humans, the major difference being their order on the chromosomes. "While the investment in sequencing the sheep genome Virtual map of the sheep genome: a world first Australian research will allow sheep breeders to identify and select animals with superior traits more quickly 4RESEARCH BEYOND THE BALE will eventually be made, we have been very pragmatic and resourceful in the meantime. We have worked out how to leverage the investment in the other mammalian genomes to build a virtual genome around the small amount of existing sheep sequence." This research has laid the groundwork for the eventual sequencing of the sheep genome itself. "We took the DNA sequences from the ends of 180,000 sheep DNA fragments called BACs (Bacterial Artificial Chromosomes -- chromosomes that have been stored in bacteria), which covered the sheep genome about 12 times over. "Then it was like a giant puzzle. We mapped the BAC- end sequences onto the frameworks of the human, dog and cow genomes. That honed the information down to 1172 sections of sheep genome, which we had to put together in the right order with the right orientation." The virtual sheep genome has been made possible by SheepGenomics, a major $30 million joint initiative of Meat and Livestock Australia and AWI, which is supported by 11 leading research organisations in Australia and New Zealand. In turn, SheepGenomics is supporting the development of a range of sheep genomics resources by the International Sheep Genomics Consortium, a collaboration of scientists and funding agencies from Australia, France, Kenya, New Zealand, the UK and the US. ú More information: Rob Forage, SheepGenomics program director, 02 9463 9169, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sheepgenomics.com Report reveals higher cost of disease Endemic diseases are costing Australian sheep producers far more money than originally thought -- with internal parasites alone costing $369 million a year in prevention measures, increased costs and production losses.The new data comes from a comprehensive report on the economic cost of endemic disease in Australian sheep and cattle. Prepared by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and co-funded by AWI, Assessing the economic cost of endemic disease on the profitability of Australian beef cattle and sheep producers provides far more comprehensive Dr Joan Lloyd, AWI's program manager for animal health and welfare, says the results of the study will help to determine research directions. "Establishing research priorities is always difficult, but a greater understanding of the cost -- not just of treating or preventing the disease, but in the loss to the producer -- which is not always visible, will help greatly," Dr Lloyd says. "In some cases, research may not be necessary to impact on that cost -- it may be improved implementation of current technology. Where this is the case, large investments in research may have little impact on the cost of the disease. "This data will also help growers, and the industry, understand the importance of animal health and be aware of the hidden losses due to high-impact diseases, such as internal parasites and flystrike." A review of literature was undertaken to assess which research was still applicable. Modelling was carried out on the major diseases and their economic impact at the farm level and the results aggregated to regional and national levels based on the distribution of the disease. Economic impacts were restricted to productivity effects, so did not include the cost of regulation, zoonoses or trade restrictions. The report was prepared by David Sackett and Phil Holmes of agricultural consultants Holmes Sackett and Associates, Kym Abbott of Charles Sturt University veterinary school, beef cattle nutrition and veterinary consultant Sandi Jephcott and Mark Barber of agricultural consultants ACIL Tasman. More information: For a copy of the report contact the MLA publications hotline 1800 675 717 and updated figures than those that have been used as the industry standard for more than a decade. "Studies over the past 30 years have looked at the cost of endemic sheep and beef cattle diseases in Australia," the report states. "The studies have two limitations in their current applicability to the Australian industry. First, many of them are now at least 10 years old and do not reflect current disease control practices, livestock numbers and the current economic situation in the industries. Second, the studies have often used different methodologies so the results are not directly comparable between diseases and different species." One of the first findings of the study was that the annual economic costs of disease on sheep production were underestimated and dated. For a ong time the figure of $220 million a year for worms and scouring has been quoted when, in fact, the study ound the annual national cost (through production oss and prevention and treatment cost) of internal parasites was $369 million.The largest portion of this cost ($300 million) is from production loss, with the remainder from expenses associated with prevention and treatment. Flystrike was the second most costly disease at $280 million, up from the previously quoted figure of $161 million. However, the impact of lice, the third most costly disease, has decreased from $169 million to $123 million annually. Post-weaning mortality costs sheep producers $89 million, making it the fourth highest cost.The remainder of the economic impact was due to perennial ryegrass toxicity, bacterial enteritis, arthritis, ootrot, phalaris toxicity and Ovine Johne's disease. (Right) the cost of prevention and treatment is a major factor in calculating the economic impact of parasites and disease, as well as production loss.
Feb 07 - Mar 07 Supplement
Dec 06 - Jan 07