Wool Quality Reduced with Sheep Weight Loss
May 2, 2014

A new study of wool production has found that seasonal weight loss can cause reduced wearability and appearance retention.

The study, involving 24 Australian Merino sheep, found the 12 that experienced experimentally induced weight-loss had significant increases in KAP13.1 and KAP6 proteins that cause reduced wearability and appearance retention in wool fibers.

Co-author Andre Almeida, Ph.D., believes their findings will cause wool producers to rethink their sheep selection programs.

"The fact that the most significant wool production players in the world are located in drought prone areas, made this issue extremely interesting," he says.

"[Seasonal weight loss] causes important changes in the wool structure and a negative impact on wool quality and technological properties. This is important information for farmers and industry as they can work to improve the balance of their supplementation programs."

The study is the first to analyze the effects of seasonal weight loss at a proteomic level and adds to prior knowledge that seasonal weight loss can cause a decrease in wool fiber diameter.

Finer wool is favored in the wool industry as it provides a reduced prickle sensation but is expensive for customers due to its lower production output per sheep.

"Ultimately this information can, on the long run, be used in [sheep] selection programs in order to obtain animals that are more capable of coping with the most serious drawback to animal production in the tropics and subtropics seasonal weight loss," says Almeida.

Almeida and his team are also examining different breeds of sheep to understand how each breed copes with seasonal weight loss in an attempt to understand key metabolic pathways and characteristics.

Reprinted in part from Phys.org