Breeding sheep in New Zealand that are less reliant on anthelmintics to maintain health and productivity

Breeding sheep in New Zealand that are less reliant on anthelmintics to maintain health and productivity
Peer reviewed

Abstract

Breeding sheep that are less reliant on the use of anthelmintics to maintain acceptable health and productivity is one of several options that may assist farmers to manage the growing anthelmintic-resistance problem in New Zealand and meet consumer demands to minimise drug usage in livestock. Although it has been known for many years that genetic factors contribute to the ability of sheep to cope with roundworm challenge, attempts to selectively breed for such factors have occurred only recently. Two host traits, `resistance` and `resilience`, are thought to be involved in limiting the deleterious effects of roundworms on the health and productivity of sheep, and the associated need for treatment with anthelmintics. Over the last decade, considerable advances have been made in our understanding of the feasibility and implications of breeding for these traits under practical conditions. The experimental breeding lines developed as part of this research are now proving to be a valuable resource for further work directed at identifying genes and/or genetic markers associated with host resistance and understanding the mechanisms of host immunity to nematode parasites in ruminants. This review provides an up-to-date summary of the results of research in this field, with particular reference to dual-purpose sheep in New Zealand, and describes how this information is being applied in practical breeding programmes.

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