The state’s livestock producers will soon have access to local DNA testing with United Kingdom company Weatherbys to establish a laboratory at the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Campus.
The company is already testing for Australian clients through its Irish laboratory and hopes to begin testing in SA by late next year.
It has just appointed an Australian and New Zealand sales manager.
Weatherbys Scientific general manager Aaron Venables says the company sees great potential for growth in genetic testing of sheep, beef and dairy cattle, as well as the equine industry in the Asia-Pacific region.
At the moment, the only livestock genotyping laboratory in Australia is located in Qld.
“While we already have clients in Australia, logistically the 10.5-hour time difference is difficult for us to provide the level of service we are used to providing, so we need to have a local presence,” Mr Venables said.
“We believe we are a market leader with the expertise to work with Australian producers in using this technology,” he said.
Weatherbys Scientific processes about 25,000 tests each week from across the world.
Mr Venables says the strong support of the state government’s Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment and the chance to work closely with the Davies Research Centre and the University of Adelaide’s leading equine facilities at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences made SA their choice for a laboratory.
He says the company hopes to offer a more cost-effective, rapid turnaround of samples to give livestock breeders more time to make their flock or herd selection decisions.
“We can ship anywhere in the world in two days and then process the samples sent in within two to three weeks so we should be able to do at least that well once we are in Australia,” he said.
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Davies Research Centre director John Williams, who visited the company in the UK last week, says it will provide breeders with a choice of genomic service providers, which was good for ensuring competitive prices.
“We have been working with Weatherbys for a long time and are impressed by the quality of their service so it will be exciting to have an Australian alternative to go to,” he said.
“With them co-located on the Roseworthy Campus, it will be a chance to work with them developing additional products for the livestock industries.
“It is early days, but during my visit to Weatherbys we already started discussing the possibility of a joint R&D laboratory located with university researchers to be at the forefront of developing new services for the industry.”
UK company to set up laboratory in SA
Weatherbys is synonymous with the racetrack in the United Kingdom and Ireland, holding the stud book registrations for thoroughbred horses for the past 247 years.
This includes a record of the results of every horse race and the horses’ bloodlines.
The company has expanded into other areas including Weatherbys Scientific, formed in 1985 to blood type racehorses.
As technology has evolved it has moved into DNA testing and bioinformatics, with sheep and cattle breeders now its biggest customers.
Many UK breed societies are its clients and in a major project with the Irish Cattle Breeders Foundation, Weatherbys has genotyped 1.5 million cattle in the past four years.
Weatherbys tests include parentage verification but also screening for production and environmental traits.
“There are 53,000 genetic loci our cattle test looks at to address characters from animal welfare to fertility, reproduction, in dairy milk production and in beef the quality of steak that animal provides,” Mr Venables said.
“In Ireland there are more cows than humans and they produce more emissions than cars so we are working on projects that look at these environmental traits also in addition to the value of the beef herd.”
The company is continuing its SA recruitment process.
“From earlier next year we will do the sample preparation in SA to send to Ireland, and as soon as the volume of business is large enough we will set up a full laboratory at Roseworthy, hopefully by the end of next year,” he said.