10 Feb 2012

Genetic history of sheep breeds being researched

6:34 am on 10 February 2012

International research involving New Zealand scientists has uncovered new information about the genetic history of sheep breeds that will help in the quest to improve production and disease resistence in sheep.

New Zealand is a member of an international consortium that's been mapping the genetic make-up or genome or the sheep.

As part of that the researchers have delved deeper into the genetic background more than 70 sheep breeds from around the world.

New Zealand contributed data from the Romney, Wiltshire, Texel, Arapawa, and Dorset Horn breeds.

Senior scientist John McEwan of AgResearch's animal genomics team at Invermay near Dunedin, says the aim has been to see how the breeds are related and learn more about their genetic diversity and origins.

He says the new information will help scientists to identify traits, such as improved disease resistance, they may want to develop in sheep here.