Tay-Sachs in Jacob Sheep


The Society has had a watching brief on Tay-Sachs in UK Jacobs since it was brought to our attention in 2011. Tay-Sachs is a genetic disorder like cystic fibrosis or haemophilia that is carried in a very small proportion of the population. It is found in humans, dogs, cats, flamingos and Jacob sheep. Limited information has been available until scientific papers on Tay-Sachs in UK Jacobs were published in October 2013 and February 2014. Following the March 2014 JSS Council meeting, Council Members formed a strategy and communications plan based on protecting the welfare of Jacob sheep and also the interests of our members. Working with colleagues in the veterinary community, researchers at Cambridge University and DEFRA Animal Health, and with the guidance and determination of Chris Lewis (a noted sheep expert and retired vet), the JSS has funded the creation of a UK test to identify Tay-Sachs in Jacobs. The test is voluntary and is now available to members who wish to test their stock.


Testing of Sheep

Members should click on the home page of this website https://site.jacobsheepsociety.com then click on the 'search for members or sheep' button which will take members to their own log in page for registrations. After logging on, Click 'Manage my flock' and it will take you to the Tay-Sachs DNA test option. Carefully select the registered sheep from your flock list to sample, add them to your basket and pay through the check out.
Grassroots will be able to help with any dispatch or returns queries through the normal contact routes. Results are anonymous and confidential between members and their vets and members will pay their vets for the service. We do not know how widespread Tay-Sachs is. Carriers of the genetic disorder show no symptoms but a small number of the progeny from two carriers may develop the disorder which is fatal. Any unexplained deaths in 6-8 month old lambs should be checked for Tay-Sachs.
The JSS Council has a continuing strategy to monitor Tay-Sachs. At present, we would encourage members to at least get their rams tested as by doing so the potential spread of Tay-Sachs can be restricted.


Following approval from the Jacob Sheep Society Council, the contract with LGC Laboratories for the continued testing of sheep for Tay-Sachs has been renewed until 2023.  In addition, Council has agreed to subsidise the cost so members of the Jacob Sheep Society will only have to pay a reduced fee of £8.50 per test which includes 50 pence for Grassroots’ administration which remains unchanged as the new registration certificates (replacement certificates denoting Tay-Sachs status after sheep have been tested) will be e-mailed out thus saving printing, postage and administration costs.

LGC will undertake the tests on two set dates at the end of May and at the end of October (The May dates allows members to get their sheep tested and the results back before the sale entries close; the October date allows members to test sheep a month before the flock book closes at the end of November).

While the Jacob Sheep Society is very keen to encourage all members to test their male breeding sheep, by opening the subsidised scheme to allow members to test female sheep as well those members wishing to achieve full Tay-Sachs clear status in their flocks may do so. The subsidised rate, which will run until the end of 2021, is available to paid up members of the JSS only, and Council reserves the right to withhold the subsidy at their discretion should they feel the subsidy is being abused or inappropriately used.

Under the new contract, LGC will accept test samples from January 1st 2021 but not undertake any tests until May 2021.  The subsidy will become effective from January 1st 2021, and the subsidy period will be reviewed at the November 2021 Council meeting with the possibility of being renewed for another twelve month period.


Testing Prior to Registration

Grassroots can only issue DNA testing kits to registered sheep. But by 'birth notifying' Grassroots, your sheep will be able to be issued a Tay Sachs testing kit prior to full registration. Birth notifying is free, and requires the same information of pedigree as when you register your sheep. Just click 'Birth Notify' instead of 'Register'
Birth notify
Birth notify


Once you have Birth Notified your sheep, you will be able to go on to request the Tay Sachs DNA testing kits from the Grassroots website.


Tay Sachs Advice

If you need help or advice, please contact the current field officer. The cost of the test is payable by members who will arrange the testing and submission via grassroots. All associated Veterinary costs are payable directly between the member and your flock vet.

Please do not contact the Lab direct. The Field Officer can provide help with interpretation of results and with breeding advice.


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