Interpretive Summary: Breeds and lines of sheep suitable for production in challenging environments
By: Schalk W P Cloete, Johan C Greeff, Cornelius L Nel, Ansie J Scholtz
The adaptability and success of sheep are confirmed by the fact that they are the world’s most diverse mammalian livestock species, contributing some 25% to the global number of farm animal breeds (Cottle, 2010). The latter author showed that the ovine species is indeed globally successful and present in farming landscapes throughout the world, ranging from arid to high rainfall areas and from sea level to the highest mountains. Sheep are often farmed in resource-poor and otherwise marginal regions, constrained by climate and soil type (Cloete and Olivier, 2010). There is also consensus that the global climate is highly likely to become more unstable in future (Rust and Rust, 2013). Droughts are expected to become more intense and persist longer, also leading to periods of prolonged heat stress (Van Wettere et al., 2021). Challenging environmental conditions are often characterized by further constraints, such as a variety of external and internal parasites (Karlsson and Greeff, 2012), as well as extremes in terms of climate, soil, and topography (Cloete and Olivier, 2010). Challenging climatic conditions at lambing also commonly compromise lamb survival (Pollard, 2006). Fighting and controlling endemic diseases and other stressors represent a considerable cost to livestock production, creating the need for more robust and easy-care animals being able to thrive in particularly challenging environments (Friggens et al., 2017).
Read the full article in Animal Frontiers.