WP2: Novel resilience traits to improve health and welfare

The Health and Welfare workpackage of SMARTER aims to identify new traits that have the potential to be integrated into new breeding programmes for sheep and goats. By including new measures of health and welfare into commercial environments, we will ensure that we will not omit a key step which is often missing from research studies.

This step is crucial to our results, whilst providing confidence among stakeholders that the results are robust for different breeds and environments. We have already measured more than 8000 records of

very detailed health traits in dairy goats in Greece (Eghoria, Skopelos and Damascus) as well as aspects of udder health and parasite resistance. Similarly, the genetic background to parasites (nematodirus, strongyles and coccidiosis) along with key immunological measures from Scottish Blackface sheep in the UK have been reported along with the genetic associations among these.

This is expected to be undertaken for French sheep an d Swiss dairy goats during the project so that we can collectively determine novel phenotypes linked to disease. New behavioural measures for early life are being developed by French scientists to determine predictors of later productive and reproductive success. Linking other influences on early life such as parasite burden and body condition score as predictors of lifetime resilience will ensure that more efficient aspects of maternal performance and disease resistance are considered for inclusion as new breeding goals for sheep and goat production.

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