ASBVs: A Guide To Using Sheep Genetics Australia

ASBVs: A Guide To Using Sheep Genetics Australia

Animal Welfare and Sustainable Farming Practices

How do you turn raw DNA data into actionable insights that you can use to drive flock productivity, profitability and sustainability?

Sheep Genetics provides the Australian sheep industry with a genetic evaluation service that helps producers breed or buy animals using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs). As an approved genotyping service provider for Sheep Genetics, XytoVet generates the genomic data that is required to estimate genomically enhanced breeding values. We will extract DNA from a tissue sample and genotype the sample to extract more than 50,000 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) from the genome of an individual animal. This SNP data is then sent to Sheep Genetics, who conduct the genetic analysis and report the ASBV results.

This blog will describe what ASBVs are and how using genomics can help in selecting animals for desirable traits. It will also explain how producers can use the Sheep Genetics database to access this information.

Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs)

Before the emergence of livestock genotyping, ram breeders would make breeding decisions based largely on an animal’s overall appearance. As such, it was not uncommon for the resulting progeny to fall short of expectations. To breed better animals on a more consistent basis, producers realised that they needed to overcome this mindset – just because a ram looked good, that didn’t mean it would achieve the desired flock improvements. Now, many operators in the Australian sheep industry are improving their breeding programs by backing up visual assessments with measured traits and genetic data.

ASBVs are genetic indicators used in sheep breeding to predict an animal’s potential performance across various traits crucial for profitability and productivity. ASBVs focus solely on genetic merit, making them comparable across different flocks. These values cover a broad range of traits, including production traits like growth, carcass quality and wool characteristics, as well as reproduction and health traits. They are derived from data, pedigree, and genomic information, allowing breeders to make informed decisions for genetic improvement. ASBVs can be compared across flocks as an indication of which genes an animal may pass on to their offspring and how those offspring will then perform.

Using the genomic information that XytoVet generates, along with pedigree and visual data that producers collect and submit to Sheep Genetics, ASBVs can be generated. The analysis uses not only the traits and data from a particular animal but also from any of its relatives that have also been genotyped and are in the national database. It is important to recognise that there is power in information and that the more visual and genomic data that can be provided, the better the accuracy of the breeding value.

In today’s sheep industry, ASBVs are incredibly useful when purchasing and breeding stock, especially when used hand-in-hand with visual assessments. Rams in particular have the potential to influence the genetic makeup of dozens of lambs per season, whereas ewes may only impact one or two lambs per year. Producers will generally invest more in selecting rams based on their ASBVs and overall look in order to make greater improvements to their sheep enterprise.

Flock Profile testing data

Flock Profiling involves genotyping 20 animals, selected randomly, from the current drop of lambs.

The results provide flock average breeding values for a suite of ASBV traits. In the report, your flock breeding values are compared to the average breeding values of MERINOSELECT flocks, with percentile bands. You can use these bands to determine where your flock sits compared to flocks in MERINOSELECT. For example, a score in the 10th percentile band indicates your flock is in the top 10% of flocks for that trait.

The Flock Profile test provides you with flock average breeding values comparable to those in the Sheep Genetics database. You can use Flock Profile results to track genetic progress and help inform ram purchasing decisions.

Parentage assignment data

A parentage assignment test, commonly known as a parent verification test, is a genetic test used to determine biological parentage. Using SNP markers, assignments are based on only the parents provided. Incorrect assignments can occur when closely related individuals aren’t included in the parent lists. The assignment is based on the percentage match criteria – the International Society for Animal Genetics (ISAG) suggests a percentage match criteria of 99% for parentage verification, which was approved in 2012.

Using the Sheep Genetics database

Once we’ve received your TSU sample and ensured its integrity, we’ll extract the DNA, process it and prepare your genotype data.

We’ll then send this data to the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), who will conduct the parentage and poll/horn analysis, and then return the results. We’ll send you this report once we are sure that it aligns with the requested testing.

AGBU will forward the poll/horn results and the genomics data to Sheep Genetics for inclusion in the next MERINOSELECT analysis run. You will need to upload the parentage results, along with any other trait measurements you have, to the Sheep Genetics Submission Portal (or by emailing the file to prior to the cut-off for the analysis run date, which can be seen here. For MERINOSELECT, this is the 7th and 21st of each month, except if that date falls on a weekend/NSW public holiday. In this case, the cut-off will be brought forward to the first business day prior.

The ASBVs for your animals will become available once the analysis has been completed by Sheep Genetics. You will be able to see these results approximately ten days after the analysis date by logging into the Sheep Genetics online dashboard.

Once the analysis is complete and we have confirmed that the results align with the requested testing, we’ll send you a comprehensive report detailing the findings. Rest assured, we’ll ensure accuracy and thoroughness throughout the process to provide you with reliable information. But don’t forget that you need to upload these results to the Sheep Genetics website.

XytoVet, genetic evaluation and Sheep Genetics

At XytoVet, we’re here to help. We’ll keep you up to speed at every step of the testing process, from ensuring sample integrity to confirming that the testing results align with the requested testing. We’ll also send you a comprehensive report detailing the findings.

Ready to get your testing underway or have a question about the process? Get in contact today.

Back to Top of the page.