Agriculture Minister Kim Chance today announced the State Government’s involvement in a major research project to breed breech-strike resistant sheep and help eliminate mulesing.
Mr Chance said Australian Wool Innovation Limited (AWI) was funding the $2million research project with the Department of Agriculture Western Australia and CSIRO as part of the wool industry’s commitment to phase out mulesing by 2010.
The Minister said the five-year project hoped to demonstrate whether selective breeding could be effective in preventing fly strike in the breech area of sheep.
“This is a nationally significant project dealing with one of the highest priority issues facing Australia’s sheep industry,” he said.
“Breech strike is a major sheep health issue in this country and we are committed to helping the wool industry find an effective alternative to surgical mulesing.”
Mr Chance said the researchers hoped that breech-strike resistance in sheep was possible by genetic selection, based on indicator traits including breech wrinkles and bare breech area.
The consequences of not mulesing sheep would also be evaluated under the project in two different Australian environments - Mount Barker in WA, which receives winter rainfall, and Armidale in New South Wales, which receives summer rainfall.
“Two flocks of 600 breeding ewes will be run on the research stations at Mt Barker and Armidale to evaluate and monitor closely animals within the merino industry that may be naturally resistant to breech strike,” the Minister said.
“The project will determine whether breeding for fly strike resistance is possible and what effects this has on commercially desirable traits such as fertility, growth rate and wool production.
“Differences in the incidence of breech strike, wool production and the cost of production will also be evaluated for both the resistant and control lines at each site.
“The Gallop Government is protecting and enhancing Western Australian agricultural practices.”
Mr Chance said the Department of Agriculture had identified its 600 ewe lambs from industry flocks based on key resistance indicator traits.
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