From Iceland — Up To A Decade To Breed Scrapie-Free Sheep

Up To A Decade To Breed Scrapie-Free Sheep

Published April 25, 2023

Photo by
John Pearson

Researchers at the Agricultural University of Iceland estimate it could take from four to 10 years to breed a sheep population that is resistant to scrapie. The way of going about achieving that goal is dependent on various uncertain factors, RÚV reports.

A degenerative disease affecting the central nervous systems of sheep and goats, scrapie was discovered earlier this month on a farm in north Iceland, requiring the immediate culling of 690 sheep and the implementation of rigorous regulations in the area.

Jón Hjalti Eiríksson, a researcher at the Agricultural University, said that a genotype that is protective against scabies would be key to replacing the country’s sheep population. That genotype was first discovered in Iceland just last year. He says excessive inbreeding is one of the factors that studies will take into account. “It is inevitable that if we want a very large part of the sheep in the country to have this allele, which has been called ARR, it will only happen if a very large part of the sheep are descendants of the few carriers we know about today.”

A lot of biological and economic juggling will be required to create a scrapie-resistant stock. Jón says the ultimate timeline depends on how willing farmers are to swap out their flocks’ ewes with carriers of the desired genotype.

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