Fleece rot and body strike in Merino sheep: VI. Experimental evaluation of some physical fleece and body characteristics as indirect selection criteria for fleece rot

Raadsma, H.W.

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 44(5): 915-931


ISSN/ISBN: 0004-9409
Accession: 008691102

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Indicators of staple thickness, staple weight, staple density, wool weight cm-2, crimp frequency, dust penetration, fibre diameter (mean, variability), birthcoat score, and neck and body wrinkle were evaluated for their suitability as indirect selection criteria against fleece rot and body strike. The fleece traits were assessed in 949 Merino ewe hoggets representing the progeny from 134 sires in 15 contemporarily managed flocks. Fleece rot and body strike were assessed following experimental induction. In decreasing order of importance, variability (s.d.) in fibre diameter, average staple thickness, crimp frequency, variability (c.v.) in fibre diameter, mean fibre diameter, birthcoat score, staple density, variability in staple thickness, staple weight, and neck wrinkle score, accounted for a significant component of the variation in liability of sheep to fleece rot. Body wrinkle, variability (c.v.) in staple thickness, staple length, dust penetration, and wool weight cm-2 were not important. Based on combined estimates of the heritability of the indicator trait and its genetic correlation with fleece rot, variability in fibre diameter (s.d.) and birthcoat score showed the highest potential as indirect selection criteria. Variability in fibre diameter (s.d.) also showed a similar scope for selection against body strike. Indicators of mean staple thickness, crimp frequency, dust penetration and wrinkle score showed little or no scope for indirect selection against fleece rot or body strike. The role of variability in fibre diameter (s.d.) as an indirect selection criterion for fleece rot and body strike in designed breeding programmes which include other important objectives, will need to be further evaluated, given an undesirable genetic correlation with clean fleece weight. High between-flock correlations were observed for a number of fleece traits and susceptibility to fleece rot. Susceptible flocks were characterized by fleeces with longer, heavier, thicker staples with a lower crimp frequency, and higher fibre diameter with a higher variability. Predicting the susceptibility of flocks to fleece rot and body strike, through a between flock index based on the measurement of simple fleece traits, is suggested.