22 March 1996

Worm research could cut bills

FLOCKMASTERS could reduce sheep worming bills if research at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, and the Glasgow Vet School lives up to early expectations. Success depends on the value of selection for reduced faecal egg count to improve worm resistance in sheep.

A paper on the inheritance of egg counts after natural infection with the roundworm, ostertagia, in Scottish Blackface lambs was given at the British Society of Animal Science winter meeting, Scarborough, Yorks (report p40).

Faecal egg counts and lamb liveweights were obtained for 200 Scottish Blackface lambs. Measurements were made from one to six months old at four-week intervals, after anthelmintic treatment, and heritabilities calculated.

Heritability of average faecal egg count from three to six months old was 33%. Significant genetic variation was found for counts in lambs over three months old. It is concluded that selection to reduce faecal egg count is both feasible and desirable in terms of lamb performance and welfare.