Ticks can compromise productivity and welfare in free-ranging sheep. Chemical tick control may not be sustainable in the long term. Alternative control measures must be sought for an integrated control programme. Birth and weaning weights as well as log transformed overall tick count of indigenous fat-tailed Namaqua Afrikaner (NA), commercial Dorper and NA x Dorper cross lambs were studied under extensive conditions. Relative to NA lambs, Dorper lambs were 22.2% heavier at weaning (P < 0.05). Geometric means for total tick count on Dorper lambs exceeded those of their Namaqua Afrikaner contemporaries by more than twofold (P < 0.05). Relative to the pure-breed midparent value, the mean performance of NA x Dorper lambs was 7.9% more for birth weight, 11.2% more for weaning weight and 26.2% less for the back transformed means for total tick count (P < 0.05). Heterosis for total tick count was slightly greater at −29.3% when data were adjusted for the larger size of NA x Dorper lambs. Crossing commercial Dorper sheep with a hardy, indigenous breed therefore resulted in lower levels of tick infestation without compromising live weight in progeny so derived. Hardy, indigenous genetic resources like the NA should be conserved and used in further studies of ovine genetics of resistance to ticks in South Africa.
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The contribution of Mr G.G. Rheeder and the staff at Nortier to the maintenance and recording of the resource flock is acknowledged with gratitude.
The research reported in this paper was funded jointly by the South African Wool Industry, the Western Cape Agricultural Research Trust (Project Cloete - 0050) and the THRIP initiative of the National Research Foundation (Projects TP2010072100062 and TP13082129837). The Intra-ACP academic mobility scheme and NRF are also acknowledged for financially supporting the study of K. Thutwa.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no competing interests.
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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethical clearance for the project was obtained from the Departmental Ethical Committee for Research on Animals (DECRA reference number R13/88) in the Department of Agriculture, Western Cape Government.
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Cloete, S.W.P., Thutwa, K., Scholtz, A.J. et al. Breed effects and heterosis for weight traits and tick count in a cross between an indigenous fat-tailed and a commercial sheep breed. Trop Anim Health Prod 53, 165 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-021-02612-7
- Namaqua Afrikaner