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The Change to DNA

Copyright WHR 2006

By Christy Howard Parsons

Kathy Zeis and the TWHBEA Breeders Committee took on an impressive slate of goals in December of 2005 and worked hard throughout 2006 to accomplish those goals. The most significant project was to research the conversion from bloodtyping to DNA for parentage verification. The bloodtyping parentage verification contracts with Shelterwood Labs and the University of Kentucky ended in October 2006.

After much research into the two forms of DNA used for parentage verification (SNPs and STRs), it was determined that STR technology would be used for TWHBEA’s DNA verification. While SNP technology is interesting and holds much promise for the future, the International Society of Animal Genetics has not agreed upon which 60-70 single nucleotide polymorphisms to use out of the thousands available. Thus while more data could be determined from SNPs, the likelihood that protocols could change thus leaving the current selections ineffective was too great a risk.

The switch to DNA was necessitated by the equine industry wide trend to switch to DNA. As bloodtyping has become more obsolete, the prices have risen. DNA has been the trend because it is simpler, easier, faster and less expensive than bloodtyping. The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is one of the few remaining breeds who are still using bloodtyping for parentage verification.

The Breeders Committee interviewed five different labs before entering into a contract with the University of Kentucky, which was the unanimous choice of the committee. The decision was based on price, convenience, quality, number of services offered, and a positive experience with the University of Kentucky lab over the past nine years. That decision was presented to the Executive Committee on October 30, 2006 which passed the motion unanimously.

There will be at least 17 microsatellite DNA genetic markers analyzed by ISAG as the Standard equine parentage panel. Other tests will be done as directed by TWHBEA, such as color tests, NI tests and any other genetic information that might be deemed necessary.

All 2007 foals will use DNA for parentage verification. DNA will be collected by pulled hair samples. The root bulb of the hair contains the tissue used for analysis, not the hair itself. Thus, individuals will not have to incur veterinarian expenses which had been incurred for pulling blood, and can pull hair according to the procedures on the kit by themselves. Also the price of the DNA kit is only $40 compared to the $50 cost of the bloodtyping kit.

One additional expense to the breeder is the cost of converting the existing breed stock in the Registry from bloodtyping records to DNA records. TWHBEA has set the cost of this service at $25 for 2007 ($35 in 2008 and $50 in 2009 in an effort to encourage early compliance). TWHBEA’s goal is to convert 100% of the breeding stock to DNA in 2007.

Foals cannot be parentage verified until their sire and dam have been converted. Owners of a foal whose sire and dam have not been converted can contact the sire and dam owners to ask them to convert, or they may pay the cost of that conversion ($25 each) themselves.

Walt Chism registered his complaint in the Breeders Committee and later in the TWHBEA Board of Director meeting that a profit was being made on the $25 conversion fee. It was determined that while the lab cost for the conversion is $10, that other internal processing costs at TWHBEA would amount to an additional $8. Other expenses under the contract are being absorbed by TWHBEA including the research and additional bloodkits necessary for any “bad blood” which cannot be converted into DNA. The University of Kentucky lab initially estimated that this “bad blood” might amount to as much as 10% of the current blood samples, however, initial blood received has been able to be converted at 100% with no “bad blood” samples.

Initially the $25 fee was for members only, and non members would have paid $85 under the initial proposal. However, the Breeders Committee on Saturday voted to waive the surcharge for nonmembers in the hopes of a rapid and complete conversion.

In other business, the Breeders Committee implemented a new program in 2006 to promote the show horse gelding. Coined GO!, the Gelding Opportunities Program will take effect January 1, 2007. Owners of show horse geldings are encourage to nominate their gelding with a $20 fee. The gelding must be a registered TWHBEA gelding and the owner of record at the time of the payout must be a TWHBEA member.

The program is broken down by age into three divisions, performance, pleasure and versatility. Winners of these divisions will be the horses with the most overall points in their discipline at yearend. Half of the money collected (which will be matched by TWHBEA up to 100 geldings) will be allocated to this competition division. In this division, in each of the three disciplines, there will be a Junior Gelding winner (4 years and under) and a Senior Gelding winner (5 and over).

The other half of the money collected (and matched by TWHBEA) will be awarded to the Super Gelding winners. The top Flatshod gelding will be honored as the GO! Flatshod Super Gelding and receive half of the money allocated to this category. The top Performance Super Gelding will receive the other half of the money in this category.

There will be a 100% payout of all monies collected in the program.

The Breeders Committee also implemented a new color policy in 2006. A new color chart adds new colors and allows for many more combinations than the old chart. A policy has been set up that allows owners to change their papers to reflect the correct color and pattern. The policy for changing a foal’s coat color at no charge was extended from 12 months to 24 months.

A color amnesty program was put in effect allowing owners to correct colors on their registration papers for a fee of $20. This amnesty is in effect from June of 2006 to May 31, 2007.

With new DNA testing, owners can request DNA verified color tests to accurately predict a horse’s color.

The Committee also adopted policies and procedures related to the ownership and methods of filing for legal ownership of frozen semen. Forms for the registration and use of frozen semen are available online or by request. This breeding season 14 stallions have registered to use frozen semen and over 1300 frozen semen certificates have been issued.

The Committee also reduced the registration fee for geldings to encourage owners to register their geldings. The fee for registering a gelding is $40 until the horse is 36 months old. After 36 months, the fee is a constant $100.

Mick Salm headed a subcommittee that examined the TWHBEA fee structure relative to ten other breeds. His subcommittee found TWHBEA’s fees to be in line relative to the other breeds.

Plans for 2007 for the Breeders Committee include implementing the DNA conversion, improving communications, streamlining processes, initiating new imaging technology, reviewing October 1 holdover colt dates, and working on ways to encourage all HIOs to submit show records to IPEDs.

Any member of the TWHBEA can be a member of any committee, one does not have to be on the National Board of Directors. Kathy Zeis will continue in 2007 as the Vice President of the Breeders Committee.

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