In an effort to stamp out one of the most costly quality control problems facing the Australian wool industry, CSIRO Livestock Industries - with assistance from the Australian Sheep Industry CRC - is investigating which Merino sheep genes are responsible for producing black or piebald offspring.
According to research team leader, Dr Belinda Norris, while the Australian Merino is renowned for its uniformly white fleece, a significant proportion of the national flock may carry gene(s) that cause coloured wool in Merino sheep.
"A white ram carrying pigmentation genes can produce a significant number of pigmented offspring and clearly it would be an advantage to both producers and ram breeders if such carriers could be detected by some alternative to the currently expensive process of ’parentage testing’," Dr Norris said. Parentage testing involves costly breeding programs designed to determine whether specific rams carry aberrant black or piebald genes.
Bill Stephens | CSIRO
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