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Genetic parameters for resistance to nematode infections in Texel lambs and their utility in breeding programmes

  • S. C. Bishop (a1), F. Jackson (a2), R. L. Coop (a2) and M. J. Stear (a3)

Abstract

This paper addresses the inheritance of host resistance to gastro-intestinal nematode parasite infections in commercial Texel lambs, and the rôle of resistance to parasites in breeding programmes. In two flocks of Texel sheep, faecal egg counts following natural parasite challenge were measured on up to three occasions post weaning per lamb over a 4-year period, with 1385 and 287 lambs measured on the two farms. Live weight, and ultrasonically measured fat and muscle depth at weaning were available for each lamb, as were deep pedigrees. Egg counts were moderately to strongly heritable on all occasions, with Nematodirus egg counts more heritable than the Strongyle egg counts. Weighted average heritabilities for Strongyle and Nematodirus egg counts were 0.26 and 0.38, respectively. Within the same category of parasite, genetic correlations across time were positive and strong but somewhat less than unity, as were the correlations between Strongyle and Nematodirus egg counts measured at the same time. Genetic correlations between performance traits and Strongyle egg counts were usually favourable (i.e. negative) but weak, whereas those with Nematodirus egg counts were generally neutral or slightly positive. Whilst Nematodirus resistance may not necessarily be included in a breeding goal, the results suggest that Nematodirus egg counts can be used as an additional genetic indicator of Strongyle egg counts, at little extra cost. Including the epidemiological consequences of decreasing Strongyle egg counts in benefits of increasing parasite resistance, it is suggested that under UK conditions selection goals that place equal emphasis on live weight and log-transformed egg counts will be a robust means of improving growth rate and decreasing parasite larval challenge.

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Keywords

Genetic parameters for resistance to nematode infections in Texel lambs and their utility in breeding programmes

  • S. C. Bishop (a1), F. Jackson (a2), R. L. Coop (a2) and M. J. Stear (a3)

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