DNA – all you need to know!

A message from President Adrian Rundle to explain the DNA programme and some documents that might help if you have any questions:

DNA FAQS

DNA RULES & REGULATIONS

Dear Members,

I am writing to update you all on our DNA testing programme.

We have had a great response so far with members testing their stock rams ready for use in July 2023. Please remember that all rams used from July 2023 need to have been DNA tested and all lambs birth notified or registered from 1st December 2023, need to be sired by a ram that has been DNA tested and we need to hold that DNA profile.

Going forward all rams born from the 1st December 2023 will have to be DNA tested and be sire verified before they can be registered as a pedigree stock ram. The responsibility is with the member using the ram, to make sure that the testing has been done before they use the ram. We don’t want any situations where a member has used a ram and the ram has died before they have been able to complete a satisfactory DNA test. In this scenario – all lambs sired by such a ram would be ineligible for registration! We expect many rams, particularly those at society sales will have already been DNA tested by the breeder.

Currently we have a subsidy scheme in place to cover 50% of the cost of the DNA testing of stock rams – this ends on the 1st of April – so I urge all members to take advantage of the scheme and order your DNA kits now in advance of this date. The kits need to be ordered by this date, but can be submitted when you are ready. Please don’t worry if you order it and for whatever reason you don’t use it as you can still use the kit whenever you are ready, and if you don’t use it for a stock ram that you are using this year; Janet will allow the money you have paid as a credit to towards the current cost of a full test, and will invoice you the difference. We would urge all members to DNA test their stock rams well before using them this season, in-case there are any issues. Members who have stocks of semen are reminded that these rams also need to be tested – please order a kit at the subsidised rate before the 1st April 2023, after this date it will be the full price. There is a separate process for sending semen samples for DNA testing – please let Gayle know if you are doing this and Gayle will let you have the instructions. Members selling semen are advised to DNA test before selling semen. Members are advised to check that the DNA test has been satisfactorily completed before using any semen, and if the person selling the semen hasn’t done the test, then it is up to the member using the semen to ensure that this is done. Janet can check for you to see if there is a test result.

The subsidised price for a stock ram is £12.50+vat for the standard DNA testing kit which is an easy-to-use blood testing Kit. For those members who wish to use a nasal swab these are also available on the website, at a subsidised cost of £15.00+vat. Both are easy to use and full instructions are sent with the kits. We ran a very successful zoom meeting in February for members who wanted to learn about how to use the DNA kits and to learn a bit more about our DNA testing programme. We have recorded this Zoom and made it available on our YouTube channel, for those who could not make it, or for those who would like some re-assurance of what to do. Within the Zoom is a demonstration video of how to take the DNA sample. To view the video please search for Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders Association YouTube Channel.

The DNA testing kits can be ordered via the HDSBA website, from page 2 of the merchandise shop, which is under the members section on the website. If anyone has any issues with ordering the kits online, please let Gayle or Janet know and they will be pleased to help.

After the 1st April 2023 – the subsidy will no longer be available and DNA testing kits will need to be purchased at the full price, currently £25+vat for the standard DNA blood test kit or £27.50+vat for the nasal swab kits. When the kits arrive, please be aware that Neogen tend to send the kits out in multiples of 5 – so you may get more kits than you have paid for! When you submit the samples, Janet checks to make sure that the animal is eligible for the subsidy and will invoice you for the difference if you haven’t DNA tested a stock ram, or if you used an extra kit that hasn’t been paid for – so please don’t worry.
Full price DNA testing Kits are available on the merchandise page of the HDSBA website for any member who wish to DNA test, scrapie genotype and sire verify any ram lambs ready for the forthcoming pedigree sales. Please remember that these tests are at the full price. It is anticipated that at the pedigree sales, DNA tested, scrapie genotype and sire verified rams will be sought after by buyers.

It is an exciting time for the breed going forward – DNA testing has been talked about for a number of years and I would like to thank Roy McFarlane and his Breed Development Committee and Judith Galbraith for all their hard work over the years to get us to the current point, where we can deliver DNA testing. There are many benefits to the breed and I thought I would summarise these below:

We are fulfilling our obligations as a DEFRA recognised Zootech breed society to undertake DNA testing and protecting the integrity of our breed. In future years when members buy a ram, you will know that it is sired by the ram you thought it was!

The Breed development committee have been looking at increasing the ram registration costs for a long time to help drive the improvement of rams retained for breeding – this has been put on hold due to the extra amount now being paid for the DNA testing cost, which will deliver more benefits for the breeder. We have also stop charging members for ram lamb birth notifications which should more than cover the cost of DNA testing a stock ram for most breeders.

As part of the DNA testing, members will receive the scrapie genotype– many members already scrapie genotype separately – this will avoid the added duplicate cost and for many this will be an added benefit.
As a Breed Society we are also testing for a number of genetic traits/defects which will help us to identify positive and negative traits in the breed, which we can use to inform our breeding decisions. At the moment Neogen are collating the information and when Neogen has enough samples, we will be able to have a view of what has been found in the Hampshire breed. As technology improves so should the number of and type of genetic defects/traits that we can test for.

When we have enough DNA samples, we will be able to look at developing a Genomic EBV, which will benefit all breeders. This will not only use the physically recorded traits from performance recording but will include the results from the animals DNA, to give a more accurate indication of the breeding potential of an animal – this will really help us to move the breed forward.

Enclosed with this letter are some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) and the society rules and regulations surrounding DNA testing. We think we have covered most scenarios but if you can think of something that we haven’t or if you would like to ask us for clarification, a “What if question?” – Please email Gayle or Janet. Likewise, if you have any questions or queries, please make contact with Gayle or Janet and we will look to support you. Please also be aware that we have our HDSBA mentors who are happy to help and provide support.
I urge all members to DNA their stock rams now and take advantage of the subsidy available. Please remember that all rams being used from July 2023 need to have been DNA tested and we must have their DNA profile on our system in order for you to birth notify or register stock born on or after 1st December 2023.

Thank you for all of your help and support,

Kind Regards,
Adrian

Adrian Rundle
HDSBA President

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