The keynote, Procter Memorial Lecture: “From sheep yards to SNP chips – the changing face of rawstock research”, was delivered by Dr Sue Cooper of the New Zealand Leather & Shoe Research Association (LASRA) during The Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists (SLTC) annual conference which took place at the University of Northampton on April 23.
Dr Cooper outlined LASRA’s work on preventing and eradicating defects on sheepskins caused by a range of issues such as cockle, white spot, rib and pinhole as well as scratches and pitting on cattle hides. She also outlined some interesting and on-going research at LASRA on looseness and told the audience that breed, sex and use (beef or dairy) were significant factors in the prevalence of looseness. Bull hides for the beef industry generally contained the least amount of looseness, which supports previously held industry opinion on the subject.
According to one who was there, the most interesting element of Dr Cooper’s presentation was related to the relatively new technology of SNP chips (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms – or genetic markers), which have been attached to around 300 sheep and measure many facets of each animals life such as parentage, breed, sex, weight and, subsequently, can be used to measure skin quality and related back to each animals genetic code. The work is ongoing and trials have been scaled up on an additional 500 sheep.
Sue was also presented with her parchment Fellowship Certificate by SLTC President, Steve Trantum.