A large-scale industry project on the resilience of lambs to nematode parasite challenge was undertaken in 2001/02 and 2002/03, to evaluate the feasibility of recording standardised age at first drench (StAge) and postweaning weight gain under nematode challenge, and to estimate genetic differences among flocks. The project involved 15 Romney flocks from two ram breeding groups, with some flocks having been part of an earlier AgResearch study of the genetics of resilience traits. This provided the opportunity to assess any correlated changes in resilience over time (where direct selection over that time period in the industry flocks had been applied to productivity traits, but not to resilience), and to compare the industry performance with AgResearch Resilient-selected and Control lines. The overall estimates of heritability for StAge and weight gain (2 time periods: Gain1 and Gain2) were 0.14 ± 0.014, 0.30 ± 0.015 and 0.15 ± 0.007, respectively. Genetic correlations between StAge and either Gain1 or Gain2 were 0.30 ± 0.06 and 0.41 ± 0.06, respectively. Genetic differences for all traits between the two industry groups were small and not significant. The genetic differences of the current industry-group means (all 15 flocks) above the AgResearch Control line were small (0.8 days, 0.5 kg and 0.9 kg, respectively). In comparison, the genetic differences of the AgResearch Resilient-selected line over the Control line after eight years of selection were 19 days, 0.7 kg and 1.4 kg (11, 8.3 and 9.6% of the industry means). The results confirm that while selection for increased resilience is feasible (although very time-consuming) under commercial conditions, a ram breeder would need to consider an index approach which combined production and resilience traits, to make best use of his animal resources.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 64, Hamilton, 300-303, 2004
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