DNA Genotyping - Status Report
Research Papers
Council Inc
Status Report

DNA Genotyping Project


During the 2002/2003 Season, the Australian Harness Racing Council through its State Controlling Body Members introduced DNA Genotyping utilising testing of hair samples to provide parental verification of selected segments of the Standardbred herd.  Council’s aim is to progressively extend this requirement until the active breeding part and the resultant progeny are all tested to ensure the integrity of the registration process for The Australian Trotting Stud Book.


Following is a current Status Report provided to AHRC Members, the Australian Standardbred Breeders Association and its State Branches.  This Report has been provided to the relevant Committee at the World Trotting Conferences as a successfully implemented Project from our Region.


Importantly, in the international breeding and standardbred registration environment, the Registries of the United States Trotting Association, Standardbred Canada and the Australian Harness Racing Council now utilise a common Testing Laboratory and Service Provider - Maxxam Analytics Inc in Canada.  In addition to the significant financial saving to all breeding industry participants accruing from this commercial contract Australia’s international reputation has been enhanced as a direct result of its implementation.  This report has been updated and released for our industry’s information on the role of Council’s staff and each State Controlling Body’s Registrar and their staff which has been fundamental to the administrative success of the Project.


The co-operation and assistance of Australian Studmasters, Breeders and Owners is gratefully acknowledged.


Rod Pollock

Chief Executive


1 February 2007



The Australian Harness Racing Council developed a comprehensive specification calling for Expressions of Interest from technically capable firms in the DNA Genotyping area both throughout Australasia and in the United States. A variety of submissions were received against the specification sought.

As a result of this exhaustive investigation and discussions held Maxxam Analytics Inc of Canada was chosen as Council’s service provider of DNA Genotyping Services because of their internationally recognised expertise and specialised technical knowledge together with their corporate standing in this field.

A commercial contract was negotiated as a result and executed by both parties. The contract specified a schedule of implementation of testing the Australian Standardbred herd commencing with the entire foal crop for the 2002/2003 season. Each State Controlling Body member of Council has instituted this integrity program for the Australian Trotting Stud Book system of standardbred registration.


The Maxxams Team
(left to right):  Robert Wiebe, Business Development
 Becky Hethrington, Customer Service Representative
Tony Fishback, Laboratory Supervisor
 Sharon Zamin, Customer Service Representative
 Bob Cote, Special Project Supervisor (IT) &
 Wayne Murray , Operations Manager

Project Status & Achievement

  • As at the end of January 2007 some 42,800+ hair samples for testing were overseas in the Canadian laboratories of Maxxam Analytics through the combined efforts of our Registrars (SCB and AHRC), Freeze Branders (who take the required hair samples for testing) and others in the chain of custody in this project’s implementation. To date 42,500+ have been processed and 253 results returned as exclusions.

  • This project has highlighted the significant achievement in the development of the project’s software from development to operational status. This includes barcode identification and wrapping of samples through to test sample finished and invoicing. As expected, the small Project Group drawn from the AHRC and RISE (HRV) has implemented and are modifying it constantly for emerging issues particularly in relation to invoicing between Maxxams/AHRC/SCB’s.

Implementation Impediments

  • As with any major project of this nature the AHRC Office and Registrars have worked through the principal difficulties encountered of:

(i) Incorrect database information on brands furnished by freeze branders.
(ii) Incorrect recording of information on databases.
(iii) Incomplete information and inaccurate information furnished.
(iv) Insufficient DNA material in the hair samples for testing purposes.
(v) Limited contamination of VIAS blood library samples sent.
No international standardised Panel of Markers for blood samples taken and tested before 1998/1999 by VIAS.
(vii) No comprehensive national DNA hair sampling undertaken by stallions.
(viii) Death of one or both parents of foals sampled.
Decision to not test the whole standardbred herd but rather testing planned by consecutive age segments to minimise industry cost.
(x) Individual information on each sample tested.
  • Importantly, the project through its design has been cleansing and correcting incorrect information on the National and State databases thereby improving significantly its data quality. This is a minor problem which enhances higher quality standard of data within our national systems as a prerequisite to Council Members' integration of their State systems.

Quarantine Considerations

  • The AHRC has in a range of negotiations in the establishment project phase concluded an agreement between Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (various areas) and their equivalent in Canada resulting in a changed regulatory regime. Discussions in Australia and Washington (USA) have resulted in AQIS and Canadian authorities providing AHRC Members initially with a twelve month permit provided that Maxxam Analytics and our industry complies with a range of conditions. This is now a continuing facility. AQIS Australia have confirmed that they will not require Council to individually provide inspection regimes and pay multiple application fees for all exports of hair samples for testing to Canada. This is a significant administration and financial saving on our shipments to Canada particularly as we have already confirmed our significantly reduced fees for testing to our industry. This occurred as a result of the Canadian Authorities banning hair samples for testing because of fears of Australian horses (and their hair) having or being exposed to African Horse Sickness. An action taken without any Australian equine industry consultation. They were unaware that we had entered an extensive contract of this nature with Maxxam Analytics. This outcome is a successful lobbying arrangement by the AHRC office in conjunction with AQIS.
  • A number of retests currently approximates some 800+ samples from the many thousands of hair samples together with the previous library samples previously sent from the Victorian Institute of Animal Science (AHRC’s previous blood testing laboratory) and the lack of comparative international markers in the period prior to 1998/1999 when no generally acknowledged international standards were available.
  • Sire or dam exclusions (either sire or dam do not match) as at end January 2007 now number around 198 and parental exclusions (both sire and dam do not match – foal swap) now stand at 55 in number. Importantly, all queries resultant from testing are extensively investigated by the Registrars in each State jurisdiction to determine parentage at the request of the AHRC Registrar.

Computerised Recording System Development

  • Whilst the database and sample identification information is continually being developed further there is significant manual work being undertaken by the AHRC and the Registrars on the area of horse information and, in particular, on invoicing to ensure correct payment involving the thousands of samples are electronically traced and billed accurately through this centralised process then integrated with the national HaRVEY computer system. This, in itself, is a major task being undertaken carefully and rapidly under operational conditions.
  • Maxxams have responded well in processing the significant numbers of samples coming in from all States, together with the exceptions relating to exported horses, sale yearlings, exclusions discovered and retests. Importantly all parties have developed the “least cost” approach for our industry participants. Importantly, when undertaking a major program of this nature the testing of all resident stallions should be undertaken as part of the process. International collaboration is also necessary to determine the markers for the stallions providing imported chilled and frozen semen for artificial insemination into Australian broodmares. This has been undertaken co-operatively with other international jurisdictions.
  • In this report, I would like to commend the work undertaken by the current Registrars and State Controlling Body staff in controlling “the chain of custody” and administratively processing the hair samples taken and shipped to Canada. The enquiry load surrounding the implementation of this important “Integrity Project” has been significant. Importantly, the volume of samples could not have been technically undertaken by our other service providers for a variety of reasons as has been achieved by Maxxam Analytics in Canada in their specialised standardbred industry capability. In addition, the decision to consolidate the national development of software with Racing Information Services Enterprise (RISE) and our custody and logistics processes have been effective. Key future benefits will accrue with its continuous integration into the AHRC/SCB systems in future. This project has again demonstrated that quality control measures are again critically necessary in the insertion of data into our systems. From collection to testing, the rework and data rectification as a result of incorrect system data is time consuming and wasteful of resources.

Maxxams & AHRC – Technology Partnership

  • The chosen service provider Maxxam Analytics has been responsive to the regular and detailed enquiries of all participant Members of the Australian Harness Racing Council with promptness and efficiency. Importantly, in a partnership of this nature customer service from both Maxxams and all State jurisdictions must be worked on expeditiously and with professional adjudication for our industry breeder participants. This international logistics project has overcome the barriers of distance through an expeditious freight capability by FedEx  telecommunications and effective computing development.

Common International Registries

  • It is important to note that the DNA Genotype Registries of the Australian Harness Racing Council, United States Trotting Association and Standardbred Canada are now on the same database at Maxxam Analytics Inc. This is an important international achievement for our industry. In addition, Council would like to thank the Registries of the USTA, Standardbred Canada, for their assistance in the area of racing standardbreds imported into their jurisdictions. The facilitation provided, in particular, by the USTA was outstanding during the difficult implementation transitional period.


This commercial agreement was commenced in April 2002 when the Australian Harness Racing Council after taking Expressions of Interest from companies involved in equine genotyping concluded a commercial agreement with the Canadian company Maxxam Analytics Inc.  This was done after extensive international negotiations with government bodies in Australia, United States and Canada.  This company is also the long term contracted service provider of genotyping services to the United States Trotting Association and Standardbred Canada where many of Australasia's sires are sourced.  It is noted that this commercial arrangement complements the usage of semen transportation throughout the Standardbred Breeding Industry internationally and into Australia.

The introduction of this service utilising hair samples for testing has been particularly successful with the operation of Studmasters who are Members of the Australian Standardbred Breeders Association and its State Branches, individual breeders and owners together with the Registrars from the State Controlling Regulatory Bodies and Council performing this valuable integrity function.  In addition to promoting the integrity of the industry's Trotting Stud Book nationally and internationally, Council has developed significant Business to Business software with Racing Information Services Enterprise to process the operational and accounting transactions involved.  These are fully integrated in the national HaRVEY database.  Since its  inception this service has been singularly successful with its international logistics and allowed standardbred owners/breeders and each jurisdiction's registration staff to save considerable money and resources.

As a result of this success, Council commenced commercial negotiations in July 2006 with Maxxam Analytics with the view to negotiate a contractual extension to the existing commercial Agreement with the encouragement of the AHRC Executive.  This has now been finalised and Council has agreed to extend the Agreement from 1 January 2007 to 31 August 2012 realising the significant financial benefits to all industry stakeholders.  This will be in the millions of dollars since the initial execution of this complex commercial Agreement from our industry's prior supplier over the contractual period.  These savings have been passed on to our industry in the form of reduced charges through adopting the technical change to genotyping the hair samples in the process identified above.

Council wishes to thank all Australian stakeholders in the breeding process for their co-operation in implementing this successful integrity project which when coupled with "Alpha Angle" freeze branding ensures the genotyping identity and verification of the Australian Standardbred Herd.  In particular thanks to the Registrars, Council's staff and RISE for their professionalism in the planning and scheduling of this complex and logistically demanding project which has been effectively implemented.  Thanks must also be given to all Australian Studmasters, Breeders and Owners for their invaluable assistance and co-operation in making this important national project happen in a commercial manner.

Rod Pollock
Chief Executive

Related Paper: The Australian Harness Racing Industry, Risk Management Initiatives

Updated:  1 February 2007