Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mary Had a Lot of Lambs: Researchers Identify Way to Accelerate Sheep Breeding

07.08.2009
Mary had a little lamb, but only once a year. However, Cornell Sheep Program researchers have discovered an unusual form of a gene that prompts ewes to breed out of season as well as conceive at younger ages and more frequently.

They conducted a simple genetic test to identify the presence of the unusual form of the gene, the so-called M allele that other researchers had suspected might be correlated with out-of-season fertility, in their test flock and then validated the gene’s relationship with aseasonal breeding by observing that trait in the flock.

The finding, published in the August issue of the Journal of Animal Science (Vol. 87, No. 8), may be a boon for the sheep industry worldwide, especially when combined with the Sheep Program’s STAR system – a method to manage ewes to lamb five times in three years rather than once a year.

“The primary biological limit for sheep production worldwide is the seasonality of breeding, but the market for high-quality lamb is a 52-week thing,” said Doug Hogue, professor emeritus of animal science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His Cornell colleague Mike Thonney and former Cornell postdoctoral researcher Raluca Mateescu, now at Oklahoma State University co-authored the paper with Andrea Lunsford, a graduate student at OSU.

Although the presence of the M allele has been definitively correlated with the ability to breed out of season, the researchers caution that it may only be a marker for the gene actually responsible for the trait.

“Breeding out of season is a complex trait,” Mateescu said, “so there are a lot of genes controlling it.” Mateescu observed the phenotype – the physical expression of the gene – in the researchers’ flock during a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell.

“In this case, we’re talking about a receptor gene for melatonin,” Thonney explained. Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone commonly found in many animals. The change in the DNA sequence of the M allele does not change the amino acid sequence of the protein. This means that it may be an accurate indicator for the phenotype of breeding out of season, though it’s uncertain whether the gene actually impacts how the sheep’s body reacts to melatonin. And there may be a risk of losing the association over generations, the researchers said, as recombination could occur between the marker and the functional gene.

Thus, the researchers stress that it will be very important to validate the gene’s ability to indicate for aseasonal breeding each time the allele is bred into a new sheep population.

“I think it’s very exciting … we only have one gene, but it’s definitely a tool that farmers can use,” said Mateescu, who is now focusing on placing markers across the sheep’s entire genome to more accurately determine which gene or genes directly affect the trait of aseasonal reproduction.

The allele is particularly useful for management under the STAR system, developed by Hogue and Cornell sheep farm manager Brian Magee in the early 1980s, which uses nutrition and conventional breeding techniques to reduce the time between heats. “If a ewe doesn't get pregnant when she is supposed to, instead of a year, it’s only 73 days [using the STAR system] until she has another opportunity,” Thonney said.

While the STAR system requires better nutrition and more farm labor to manage the lambing, each lambing event involves fewer ewes than traditional yearly lambing.

The researchers hope that the discovery of the M allele may help the STAR system adapt to consistently high levels of production without any additional risk to flock health.

The study was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and New York Agricultural Experiment Station.

Blaine Friedlander | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cereals use chemical defenses in a multifunctional manner against different herbivores
06.12.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht Can rice filter water from ag fields?
05.12.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>