Inheritance of faecal egg counts during early lactation in Scottish Blackface ewes facing mixed, natural nematode infections Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThis paper presents an analysis of nematode faecal egg counts from Scottish Blackface ewes facing mixed, natural nematode infections (predominantly Teladorsagia circumcincta). The data set comprised 1445 measurements on 421 ewes taken at 4 and 6 weeks post-lambing, over a 4-year period. The ewes, themselves, were the progeny of 73 sires and 285 dams. Only Strongyle eggs were consistently present, and faecal egg counts from this genera ranged from zero (0·4 of all measurements) to 3388 eggs per g. Faecal egg counts were significantly affected by the number of lambs reared and suckled (increasing reproductive burden led to higher counts) by ewe age (older ewes had lower counts) and by previous selection history (ewes from a line previously selected for increased carcass fatness had lower faecal egg counts than ewes from a conversely selected lean line). The heritability of log-transformed faecal egg counts was 0·23 (s.e. 005) and the repeatability, including both within- and between-year permanent environmental effects, was 0·25 (s.e. 004). The apparent presence or absence of infection had a heritability of 015 (s.e. 007) on the observed scale and 0·39 (s.e. 016) when analysed as a binomial threshold trait. The genetic correlation between average 4-week weight of lamb suckled by the ewe and faecal egg counts was 0·24 (s.e. 010). The results suggest that faecal egg counts during early lactation are heritable and influenced by the reproductive performance of the ewe. Selection to reduce nematode faecal egg output from ewes during this period should be successful in reducing pasture larval contamination.

publication date

  • December 2001