HISTORY has been made by The Grange Merino stud which has produced WA's first cloned lamb.
From a plug of skin from earmarking pliers, a male lamb has been developed and was born on Monday, June 11 out of a surrogate mother at the Turretfield Research Centre in South Australia.
The cloned lamb is the identical younger brother of The Grange 223 (a seven-year-old ram) from which the plug of ear skin was taken late last year at The Grange stud, Belhus, said the South Australian Research and Development Institute's principal scientist, Dr Simon Walker.
The precious piece of tissue was then taken to Turretfield where it was grown in a culture medium and produced millions of cells.
Unfertilised eggs were then harvested from donor Merino ewes and the mothers' DNA removed from the eggs.
"Just one cell from the millions grown from the ear plug was placed into each egg, and the embryos grown to six days in the laboratory," Dr Walker said.
"They were then transferred to surrogate - or recipient - ewes."
After gestation, the lamb was delivered by caesarian method.
"For reasons we don't yet know, normal parturition doesn't always happen with cloned lambs," Dr Walker said.
"He was a bit lethargic the first day, but after that, he was highly active and running around like any normal lamb and very like his identical older brother," Dr Walker said.
The cloning was the result of collaboration between The Grange stud and SARDI.
"We are trying to evaluate the productivity of cloned animals and The Grange, being a progressive-thinking stud, saw it as being of value to its breeding program," Dr Walker said.
"We need to generate a number of healthy clones to assess their normality and their lifetime performance needs to be assessed.
"Ultimately this lamb will be part of The Grange stud, but they keep such detailed records that it will be easy to 'keep tabs' on him. We will have access to his lifetime, to his progeny and their production.
"This program is the perfect liaison between science and industry."
The lamb would remain at Turretfield for the research team to keep an eye on him to ascertain all is well before being domiciled at The Grange.
The cloning of The Grange lamb had its start back when the world's first cloned sheep Dolly was developed in Scotland.
It made the Turretfield research team realise they could use the same technique in animal breeding and they did so last year, producing Australia's first cloned lamb, Matilda.
"We realised the duplication of elite animals was possible for breeding at the high-ranking end of the gene pool," Dr Walker said.
"This meant that superior genes could filter into commercial flocks more quickly."
On the cloning, The Grange studmaster Lukis Blake has noticed an uncanny insteance of the lamb's resemblance to his older, identical brother.
"When he's in the ram shed, old 223 has a habit of standing on his back legs and resting his two front ones on higher rails. The lamb does exactly the same thing."
Mr Blake said The Grange recognised the importance of being involved in this as we see - in the long term - cloning and JIVET as being a valuable means of more efficiently distributing elite genes directly to the commercial woolgrower.
"This particular ram is very proven and has some 8000 progeny on the ground. We are doing the best we can for clients and future clients by giving them the best available opportunity to prosper through using our genetics," he said.