Variation in feed intake, wool production and blood metabolites in Merino wethers

Pickford, Zoe
University of New England


The research project will be focused on measuring phenotypic differences in wool growth and fibre diameter in 6 month old Merino wethers. These wethers are the offspring of sires with genetic diversity in a number of wool traits from the Merino Ewe Lifetime Productivity Project. (MLP).

Experimental Design

  • 120 6 month old wethers from Trangie research station
  • All wethers shorn and settled into UNE CART facilties on base diet (cereal and lucerne chaff) in group and individual pens.
  • All sheep will be dye band for wool growth measures 30 days after entering the animal house. A measure of wool growth rate will be made over a 30 day period and measurements for yield and fibre diameter.
  • During a 60 day period, daily feed intake will be recorded, weekly liveweight, body composition scans and blood samples (skin prick test) taken for measurement of 3 key metabolites.
  • At the end of the 60 days, two phenotypes will be selected based on muscle and fat composition and wool growth data.
  • These 40 sheep will be fed 2 diets varying in metabolisable energy and crude protein content.
  • All sheep will be measured for whole tract dry matter digestibility (DMD), carbon and nitrogen balance. Following sacrifice around 40 wethers fed the two diets will have samples of skin and digestive tract
    collected for metabolite assays.