The main benefit of this technology for the NZ sheep industry is that it provides a means to select for genetic merit without the need to phenotype.
This is good news for traits that are expensive or unfeasible to obtain phenotypes for. Additionally, there will be significant time advantages - in many cases there will be no more waiting around for progeny test results! Both of these advantages will result in greater genetic gain for the individual and for the industry as a whole.
The first tests will be available in mid-2010 and more traits will be available over time.
In practise, the R&D process to deliver this technology involves the collection of DNA samples and phenotype records from industrially-relevant flocks. These DNA samples are genotyped with the SNP chip and the best crop of SNPs that are most predictive are included in a "SNP Key". These give a prediction equation to estimate molecular breeding values analogous to traditional estimated BVs.
The "SNP Key" information will be helpful in making selection/breeding decisions especially for traits which are difficult or expensive to measure e.g. facial eczema resistance, meat quality, or trying to measure meat yield on a prize ram! Also traits that are sex-limited or not expressed until later in life (e.g. fertility or seasonality).