The adaption of the South Africa sheep industry to new trends in animal breeding and genetics: A review
The history of sheep breeding research in South Africa can be divided roughly into four eras, namely the research and development phase, the commencement of recording and evaluation, the expansion of recording schemes, and, most recently, the adaptation of schemes to international benchmarks. The most recent era has presented scientists with the greatest challenges, namely the inclusion of genomic breeding values in routine sheep recording and of disease-resistance traits during routine evaluation. The establishment of reference populations for the major South African sheep breeds to estimate genomic breeding values is an immediate challenge. This process may be facilitated by a number of genetic resource flocks that are phenotyped for traits that are not routinely recorded in the national evaluation. A limited number of these animals are also genotyped. There is strong evidence that resistance of sheep to external and internal parasites is heritable, and may be improved by purposeful selection. Efforts should be concentrated on the inclusion of disease resistance traits in national analyses where appropriate. However, seen against the background that South African investment in research is appreciably less than in developed countries, lack of funding and high-capacity manpower may impede rapid progress. There thus seem to be many challenges for future generations of sheep breeding scientists.
Keywords: Capacity, disease resistance, genomic selection