STUD Merino breeders wanting to cash in on the swing to polled sheep can now fast-track the process.
DNA technology can allow breeders to lessen the chances of getting a horned ram by 80 per cent in just one year.
And it is possible to remove the horned gene from the flock within seven years, according to work done by the Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep.
Sales of Poll Merino rams have skyrocketed in the past few years as the quality of polled animals increases and demand spikes.
Studs such as Woodpark Merinos at Jerilderie sell out of their polled sires, in a dramatic change of heart by their clients.
The process of switching from horned to Poll Merinos can be achieved in the shortest time frame by testing all sheep.
But even if only rams are tested, it will take just 20 years to remove the horn gene.
The speed with which horns can be removed from the flock is thanks to its genetic control. "The development of horns in sheep appears to be controlled by a single gene for which there is a good DNA marker," Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said.
"The new genomic test for the horn gene means that, in poll flocks, we can avoid breeding from rams that are carriers of the horn gene."
The test for the poll/horn gene is $17 per animal, which Professor Rowe said represented "a clear return on investment for breeders and ram buyers wanting polled Merinos".
While some breeders may want to test all their animals straight away, Prof Rowe warned them to do their sums.
" ... The cost of testing is much higher and this should be carefully factored into breeding budgets," he said.
The DNA work for horned/poll sheep was carried out as part of the observations of the 2300 Merino progeny in the Information Nucleus Flock.
It found that there were three possible gene combinations for Merinos that influenced whether a sheep had horns or not.
The gene for horns is recessive so both parents must have the horn gene before it shows up in the progeny.