High-fertility find increases number of lambs

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2014

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A new high-fertility gene that could change the New Zealand sheep industry has been found in a Southland Texel stud.

One of the keynote speakers at this week's New Zealand Texel Breeders conference, AgResearch scientist Dr John McEwan will discuss the fertility gene, GDF9, which is present in the Blackdale Stud at Ermedale.

Norwegian scientists found the gene variant increased the number of lambs in Norwegian white sheep. It was identified in the Blackdale flock via SNP chip technology, developed by Ovita, but so far the gene variant exists in only a few New Zealand sheep, McEwan said.

Blackdale Stud owner Peter Black said the gene could have great significance for the New Zealand sheep industry.

The texel, which was first introduced into New Zealand in 1990, had gained a worldwide reputation for producing high-yielding high-quality meat carcasses, Black said. It also had good milking and mothering ability and a high tolerance to internal parasites.

In New Zealand, the texel has been widely used for cross-breeding with both terminal sire and dual-purpose breeds, he said.

The NZ Texel Breeders conference will be held in Southland on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Five texel studs will be visited including the Millers at Glencoe; the Blacks at Ermedale; the Browns at Tuatapere; the Grays at Otautau and Mount Linton Station at Ohai.

Graham Alder, the newly appointed chief executive of Beef + Lamb Genetics, will be speaking at Woodlands Research Station on Tuesday morning along with Dr Neville Jopson, from consultancy firm Abacus Bio.

Dr Mark Ferguson, production science manager for the New Zealand Merino Company, will speak at the Millers Glencoe property.

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