The application of genetic selection technologies in livestock breeding offers unique opportunities to enhance the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of the livestock industry. However, there is a concern that the uptake of these technologies has been slower in the sheep and beef sectors in comparison to the dairy, pig and poultry sectors. This article discusses how an agricultural innovation systems perspective can help identify the dynamics of technology uptake in the livestock sector using the adoption of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in sheep production in Scotland as a case study. Five major (systemic) challenges were identified: a weakly integrated sheep supply chain (market structure failure); the presence of a powerful faction antagonistic towards EBVs (network failure); a challenging policy environment (hard institutional failure); a dismantled and weak advisory service with regard to EBVs (capabilities failure); and an outdated and inflexible data management system (infrastructure failure). Whilst efforts are being made to address the barriers individually it is argued that a more holistic approach is needed to innovation. The findings are shown to have wider implications for innovation within the agricultural sector of the European Union.