Monday, April 28, 2008

Parasite Resistance in Sheep

A research team in New Zealand has recently discovered a DNA marker for parasite resistance in sheep. The ‘wormSTAR’ test was developed by taking measurements from over 100,000 sheep, all major breeds were included and samples were taken from all over the country. It was determined that some animals had higher parasite resistance, shed less eggs, and had higher fleece weights, weaning weights and carcass yields.

Parasites can have a detrimental effect on sheep. Some of the symptoms of parasite infection include: weakness, poor growth and reproduction, scouring, anaemia and in sever cases death. Drenches are becoming less effective, as parasites are building up resistance. The wormSTAR test will allow farmers to select animals that have a natural ability to fight parasites, this natural ability used in conjunction with drenching will allow for more comprehensive parasite protection.

Parasite resistance is not the only benefit associated with the wormSTAR test. Animals that have the gene responsible for parasite resistance were also found to have increased productivity. So animals with this gene have greater parasite resistance, higher wool and meat yields, and shed fewer eggs lowering the chance of infecting other animals in the flock.

This gene is an important discovery for the agricultural industry. It provides a genetic solution that draws on an animal’s natural ability and is environmentally maintainable. It is hoped that in the near future similar test will be developed for use on cattle.

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