Genetic variation in and relationships among faecal worm eggs recorded in different seasons of the year at the Tygerhoek farm in South Africa
CITATION: Mpetile, Z., Dzama, K. & Cloete, S. W. P. 2017. Genetic variation in and relationships among faecal worm eggs recorded in different seasons of the year at the Tygerhoek farm in South Africa. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association, 88:a1484, doi:10.4102/jsava.v88i0.1484.
The original publication is available at https://jsava.co.za/index.php/jsava
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Gastrointestinal nematodes result in severe economic and production losses to the sheep industry. An increase in resistance of the nematodes to chemicals used for control, as well as a demand of consumers for meat products free from chemicals, has fostered research on alternative control strategies. Breeding for resistance to nematodes offers an alternative to control parasitism but its effectiveness depends on genetic variation in faecal worm egg count (FWEC), an indirect measure of parasite resistance. A historic dataset of FWEC from four Merino lines subjected to natural parasite challenge was used to estimate genetic parameters for FWEC in three seasons (autumn, winter and spring) using a repeated records animal model, followed by a three-trait animal model analysis treating FWEC in different seasons as separate traits. The effects of selection line, birth year, sex, the sex x birth year interaction, season and the season x year interaction were significant when using 4994 records recorded from 1997 to 2000 (p < 0.001). The heritability of log-transformed FWEC amounted to 0.09 ± 0.02, with no contribution from the animal permanent environmental variance to the between animal variation across seasons. Three-trait heritability estimates for log-transformed FWEC amounted to 0.07 ± 0.05 in autumn, 0.13 ± 0.05 in winter and 0.19 ± 0.05 in spring. These results suggest sufficient genetic variation in FWEC to support selection for lower log-transformed FWEC. However, the best time to record data for selection is after the break of the season in winter and in spring, when sheep are stimulated by a greater intake of infective larvae from the pasture after the first rains. Genetic correlations among FWEC in the respective seasons were moderate to high, ranging from 0.55 to 0.89. Phenotypic correlations, on the other hand, were significant but lower in magnitude, ranging from 0.09 to 0.16. These results provide useful information for developing strategies for the genetic improvement of ovine resistance to gastrointestinal nematodes under Mediterranean conditions in South Africa by using FWEC as an indicator trait.