Original Research

Genetic parameters for resistance to Haemonchus contortus in Merino sheep in South Africa

S.W. Nieuwoudt, H.E. Theron, L.P. Kruger
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 73, No 1 | a540 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v73i1.540 | © 2002 S.W. Nieuwoudt, H.E. Theron, L.P. Kruger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 July 2002 | Published: 05 July 2002

About the author(s)

S.W. Nieuwoudt,
H.E. Theron,
L.P. Kruger,

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Resistance to natural infections of Haemonchus contortus (wireworm) was studied in Merino sheep. From February 1995 to July 1996 data were collected from the OTK Merino Stud on the farm Wildebeesfontein near Hendrina in Mpumalanga province. From March 1998 to January 2000 another Merino flock at Irene in Gauteng province was included in the study. In both cases, 50 randomly-chosen animals from each group of lambs weaned were sampled weekly for faecal egg count (FEC) until a mean of 2500 eggs per gram faeces (epg) was reached. At this stage, all lambs in the group were sampled for FEC, packed cell volume (PCV) and live mass in the case of the Wildebeesfontein flock. Animals were monitored from weaning to about 1 year of age. Data from 5 different groups of lambs (583 animals and 1722 records in total) with genetic links were accumulated and analysed. Variance components and resulting heritabilities for logFEC and PCV were estimated using a bivariate animal model with repeated records. The estimated heritabilities were 0.24 ± 0.02 for logFEC and 0.14 ± 0.02 for PCV. A strong negative correlation (-0.84 ± 0.06) existed between the 2 traits. The genetic correlation between PCV and live mass for the Wildebeesfontein flock was low (0.28 ±0.09), while that between logFEC and live mass was negative, although not significantly different from zero (-0.13 ± 0.09). These results suggest that FEC can be used as a selection criterion for resistance to H. contortus infections in Merino sheep.


Genetic Parameters; Haemonchus Contortus; Merino Sheep; Resistance


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