HELMINTHS are gastrointestinal parasitic worms that have become a major concern and source of economic loss for sheep producers around the world.
A new article published Dec. 19 in the Canadian Journal of Animal Science reviews current research into a promising alternative to control the disease.
According to the paper, the sheep industry has become dependent on drugs to control these parasites. Over time, these drugs become less effective as helminths become resistant to them, according to an announcement. Therefore, there is pressure on the industry to find alternate strategies.
One such strategy is genetic selection. Certain breeds of sheep are more immune to helminths than other breeds, and a breeding program that aims to pass on this resistance trait could help control the disease and ultimately limit production losses attributed to helminth infection.
A key advantage to applying genetic selection rather than chemicals to get rid of the worms is that it is permanent and could help reduce the potential risk of chemical residues in products made for human consumption, the study's lead author Niel Karrow said.
"With today's developments in genomic selection, breeding sheep for helminth resistance can be achieved efficiently, without adversely affecting other economically important traits," explained Karrow, a researcher at the Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock at the University of Guelph. "We believe that breeding for helminth resistance, when combined with good biosecurity and pasture management practices, will greatly help to control against production losses due to gastrointestinal parasites."