Work is progressing well on the Eriskay Pony Society DNA project which is funded by a generous grant from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) along with a sizeable contribution from the Society’s own funds. The project started in spring when owners were asked to submit a hair sample from their pony, using the kit supplied free by the Society, and it was stressed at the time that this was open to all Eriskay ponies, no matter which stud book they were registered in.
Over 100 samples were collected and sent to Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences and Senior Lecturer, Dr Samuel White, has just provided EPS with an update on how the project is progressing.
Dr White said ‘’Having now extracted the DNA samples from the hair, we have been performing quality checks and optimising our sequencing procedure so we can target the genes of interest. The extracted DNA is now termed a ‘library’ as it is waiting to be ‘read’ by the sequencer.
We have been reviewing this sequencing method to ensure we evaluate all the regions of DNA that are of value to us, and thus will enable the widescale genomic profiling and integration with breeding data.
As we have now largely undergone the process of optimising this tailored Eriskay specific profiling with the samples, we should be in a position to start running our library when we return after the Christmas break.
Once the samples are fully sequenced, we will then be able to delve into all of the exciting data and start to integrate this with the breeding data for a real-world impact. We are all very much abuzz with anticipation for this novel and highly valuable data and it is so exciting to think soon we will have a genotyping profile of the Eriskay pony for the first time’’.
EPS Registrar, Lorna Holden, said ‘’We are very grateful to all the owners who took part in this project by sending in hair samples from their pony and the information we will get will really help inform our breeding plans. With the help of the RBST we have already adopted the SPARKS system of selection, which goes some way to help slow down inbreeding, however we recognise that science and technology can give us a much more accurate understanding of the genetics and of our stud book. It is fantastic to be working with such a committed team at NTU.’’