- This is a little bit of a follow-up to a post I wrote (coincidentally, almost exactly a year ago now) on Huacaya alpaca Breed Standards. The original post was posted on a popular Facebook alpaca forum, and it generated quite a bit of controversy (as intended). A bit more recently, I posted this tentative outline of a commercial production-based Huacaya alpaca breed standard on the same forum. It, too, generated quite a bit of interest, though the response was surprisingly positive. Interestingly, the thing that the most people disagreed with was the line, "The only permissible color is white." I stand by that statement. Introducing color only muddies the water when to majority of production-based alpaca breeders wish to focus on white, and it's hard enough to breed for pure white as it is.
- The popularity of alpacas (Vicugna pacos) is increasing in Sweden as well as in other countries; however, knowledge about optimal management practices under Swedish conditions is still limited. The wide age range reported when the onset of puberty can occur, between 1 and 3 years of age, makes management decisions difficult and may be influenced by the conditions under which the alpacas are kept. The aim of this study was to find out when Swedish alpacas can be expected to start producing sperm, by using testicular length and body condition score as a more precise indirect indicator than age.
- The opportunity exists to utilise our knowledge of major genes that influence the economically important traits in wool sheep. Genes with Mendelian inheritance have been identified for many important traits in wool sheep. Of particular importance are genes influencing pigmentation, wool quality and the keratin proteins, the latter of which are important for the morphology of the wool fibre. Gene mapping studies have identified some chromosomal regions associated with variation in wool quality and production traits. The challenge now is to build on this knowledge base in a cost-effective way to deliver molecular tools that facilitate enhanced genetic improvement programs for wool sheep.
- Heritability was estimated for a range of visually assessed traits recorded on Merino sheep, together with the phenotypic and genetic correlations among the visually assessed traits and correlations of the visually assessed traits with measured wool production traits and liveweight. Data were derived from four research resource flocks, with a range of 12 958 to 57 128 records from animals with 478 to 1491 sires for the various traits. The estimates of heritability were high for the wool quality traits of handle, wool character and wool colour (0.33–0.34) and the conformation traits of face cover, neck wrinkle and body wrinkle (0.42–0.45), moderate for front leg structure (0.18) and low for back leg structure (0.13). Fleece rot score had low heritability (0.14), while classer grade was moderately heritable (0.20). Estimates of genetic correlations among the visually assessed wool quality traits were low to moderate in size and positive (0.17–0.47). Genetic correlation estimates among the assessed conformation traits were generally very low, except for the genetic correlations between scores for neck and body wrinkle (0.92 ± 0.01) and front and back leg structure (0.31 ± 0.09). Fleece rot score had low positive genetic correlations with neck and body wrinkle scores (0.18 ± 0.05 and 0.15 ± 0.05, respectively) and classer grade (0.26 ± 0.06). Classer grade was slightly positively correlated with the wool quality traits (0.17–0.45) and leg structure traits (0.21–0.25). The genetic correlations among the visually assessed traits were generally neutral to favourable. The visually assessed wool quality traits had low to moderate favourable genetic correlations with mean and coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (0.19 –0.47), but negative correlations with clean wool yield (–0.26 to –0.37). Face cover was unfavourably correlated with staple length (–0.27 ± 0.04) and liveweight (–0.23 ± 0.02). Neck and body wrinkle scores were genetically associated with higher greasy (0.33–0.39) and clean fleece weights (0.19–0.22), greater coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (0.24–0.26) and fibre curvature (0.27–0.28), but with reduced yield (–0.26 to –0.28) and staple length (–0.34 to –0.41). Fleece rot score was genetically correlated with clean fleece weight (0.26 ± 0.05) and coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (0.27 ± 0.04). Classer grade was favourably correlated with greasy and clean fleece weights (–0.41 to –0.43), staple length (–0.29 ± 0.04), liveweight (–0.36 ± 0.03) and coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (0.27 ± 0.03). Most genetic correlations between the visually assessed traits and the measured production traits and liveweight were close to zero and less than 0.2 in magnitude. This study provides accurate values for the parameter matrix required to incorporate visually assessed traits into breeding objectives and the genetic evaluation programs used in the Australian sheep industry, allowing the development of breeding objectives and indexes that optimally combine visually assessed performance and measured production in Merino sheep.
- Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide a powerful approach for identifying quantitative trait loci without prior knowledge of location or function. To identify loci associated with wool production traits, we performed a genome-wide association study on a total of 765 Chinese Merino sheep (JunKen type) genotyped with 50 K single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In the present study, five wool production traits were examined: fiber diameter, fiber diameter coefficient of variation, fineness dispersion, staple length and crimp. We detected 28 genome-wide significant SNPs for fiber diameter, fiber diameter coefficient of variation, fineness dispersion, and crimp trait in the Chinese Merino sheep. About 43% of the significant SNP markers were located within known or predicted genes, including YWHAZ, KRTCAP3, TSPEAR, PIK3R4, KIF16B, PTPN3, GPRC5A, DDX47, TCF9, TPTE2, EPHA5 and NBEA genes. Our results not only confirm the results of previous reports, but also provide a suite of novel SNP markers and candidate genes associated with wool traits. Our findings will be useful for exploring the genetic control of wool traits in sheep.