Fleece rot and body strike in merino sheep iv. experimental evaluation of traits related to greasy wool color for indirect selection against fleece rot

Raadsma, H.W.; Wilkinson, B.R.

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 41(1): 139-154


ISSN/ISBN: 0004-9409
Accession: 007353105

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The potential for using indicators of greasy wool colour as indirect criteria for selection of sheep genetically resistant to fleece rot and body strike was examined. Nine traits based on the subjective grading of wool samples (1 trait), objective reflectance (6 traits) and colour development during incubation (2 traits) were evaluated for their genetic potential, ease and reliability of measurement, and relationship with other major production characteristics. The colour of wool was assessed in 949 Merino ewe hoggets representing the progeny of 134 sires before the induction of fleece rot. All colour traits were moderately heritable, ranging from 0.25 .+-. 0.13 for subjective colour score to 0.40 .+-. 0.14 (h2 .+-. s.e.) for an objective reflectance index. Based on the combined estimate of the heritability of the indicator trait and its genetic correlation with fleece rot, indices based on the objective measurement of colour reflectance and colour development following incubation showed the highest genetic potential for indirect selection. Objective measurement of colour reflectance also showed a high genetic potential for indirect selection against body strike. Subjective colour assessment prior to the induction of fleece rot showed the lowest potential for indirect selection against both fleece rot and body strike. The cost of objective measurement of colour was less than that of colour development during incubation, and the former was found to be the most reliable indirect selection criterion in this experiment. A consequence of selecting solely for decreased greasy wool colour on other production characters is likely to result in decreased fibre diameter, increased wool yield, with a potentially small decrease in greasy fleece weight. Further evaluation of colour indicators as additional selection criteria should first focus on the likely fleece rot and body strike resistance as part of (national) breeding objectives. Only then can the full impact of using colour variables on the overall breeding aggregate be established.