AUSTRALIA’s largest commercial livestock genomic testing laboratory has been officially opened in Gatton, following a $5 million investment in new facilities and equipment.
Neogen Australasia’s new labs feature high-end genomic analysis tools and robotic processing capable of handling more than 500,000 samples each year to support the Australian beef cattle, sheep, dairy and companion animal industries, with other species added in the future.
The laboratory is already processing about 1500 samples a day, mostly for the cattle and sheep industry.
Genetic material generally supplied in the form of Up to 50,000 DNA markers are generated from each sample.
The analysed data is presented breed to livestock breeder or breed society within a month.
That data enables the selection of animals based on important traits including poll, tenderness, diseases, coat colour, fertility, growth rates, meat quality carcase.
The genomic laboratories are located at UQ’s Gatton campus, and employs more than 30 staff, half of whom previously worked for UQ’s former Animal Genetics Laboratory. AGL acted as a research and industry service facility prior to Neogen’s 2017 decision to invest in a long-term commercial operation at the site.
Neogen Corporation vice president of corporate development, Dr Jason Lilly, said the opening was a major milestone for Australian livestock industries as they seek to accelerate the rate of improvement in the performance of their breeding stock, leading to enhanced animal management.
Neogen Corporation, a publicly listed food and animal safety company based in the US, is the parent company of Neogen Australasia, as well as GeneSeek, the world’s largest animal genomics laboratory, based in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“By using innovative technologies coupled with the latest bioinformatic methods, Neogen Australasia is providing reliable, rapid, and affordable genomic information that helps livestock producers raise healthier animals and have more productive herds,” Dr Lilly said.
“We have built on the long tradition of quality genomic research here at The University of Queensland and as a result Neogen is now Australia’s leading provider of genomic testing of cattle and sheep.
“But more importantly, as Australian farmers increasingly embrace DNA-based technologies in their breeding programs, Neogen Australasia is the only local genomic testing facility, which will ensure the highest quality data delivered with rapid turnaround times, at fair prices.”
The laboratories were officially opened by the Queensland Government representative, Karen Wiik, executive director, Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, in recognition of the role of the Queensland Government, through its Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund, in attracting Neogen Corporation to locate its first Australian business in Queensland.
Neogen Australasia general manager Dr Russell Lyons said Neogen’s investment in the custom-built laboratory was a sign of the company’s long-term commitment to the Australian livestock industries.
“Having local laboratories staffed by local people really does give livestock producers the chance to actively participate in the genomic revolution – our doors are open and we welcome livestock producers to come in to view their samples being processed,” Dr Lyons said.
“The great thing about genomics is that DNA doesn’t lie. Genomic testing allows animal breeders to make better informed decisions and improve the productivity and profitability of their businesses by accessing more precise information earlier in an animal’s lifecycle, saving producers money.
“And we will be able to continue to provide the latest in DNA testing and bioinformatic tools to producers here in Australia thanks to the support we receive from Neogen’s global network of research and testing facilities, headquartered in Nebraska, US, with additional laboratories in the United Kingdom and Brazil.”
The opening event was attended by more than 100 livestock producers and industry leaders, with presentations on the power of genomic testing and its future directions delivered by expert guest speakers from The University of Queensland, the University of New England, the Sheep CRC, CSIRO and Meat & Livestock Australia.