Genome conservation, selection and breed management in ryeland sheep
Applicants (UK, EU and international) capable of self-funding or with scholarship are welcome to apply.
CASE Partner: Ryeland Flock Book Society
Ryeland sheep date back to Roman times and have historically produced premium wool considered the finest and most valuable of native British breeds. The Ryeland also sustainably produces quick maturing prime lamb with a unique and sought after taste. It is a hardy and low maintenance breed with the ability to thrive on a grass based diet without supplementation. The purpose of this studentship project is to understand the underlying genetic basis of some of the ryeland’s unique characteristics and provide tools for identification, traceability and selection in order to re-establish the Ryeland as a real commercial option for the UK sheep sector. The Ryeland Flock Book Society was established in 1903 and current membership exceeds 400. Carcass lean meat weight, lamb growth efficiency, reduced fat content, enhanced wool characteristics are primary commercial drivers, and this project, a CASE studentship with the Society, will seek to identify markers for these traits within the breed. Genetic markers linked to additional conformation, health and disease traits will be explored to further investigate the potential for the Ryeland both in pure flocks and as a commercial type for crossing with other breeds. This study will make a quantum leap in molecular technology and take advantage of the recently developed Illumina Ovine SNP50 Infinium assay. This tool allows the simultaneous analysis of 54,241 evenly spaced (one marker per 46 kb) single nucleotide polymorphisms for genome-wide association studies and other applications including selection, determination of genetic diversity, identification of quantitative trait loci, and comparative genetic studies. Analysis of this precision has not been previously possible in sheep and will enable trait associated polymorphisms to be identified within different phenotype groups in the ryeland for commercial and conservation-relevant traits, thus offering the student experience in high throughput genotyping, bioinformatics, breed conservation and population genetics.