Selective breeding has been used for thousands of years to improve the quality and weight of wool, but surprisingly there is still a large amount of genetic variation present at the loci involved in the “blueprint” for wool synthesis. This genetic heterogeneity results in considerable variation within, and between individual fleeces. This has both positive and negative implications. Where a wool processor requires uniformity in raw stock, both to gain efficiency in processing and to make a product to specification, it has a negative effect. Where specific traits convey unique properties it opens up opportunities for differentiated products. Markers for genes or knowledge of individual gene effects may be useful for identifying sheep with desirable wool traits that are difficult or expensive to measure under field conditions. The discovery of genetic variation in valuable fibre traits could allow the development of gene-marker tests which would assist breeding for more consistent wool.

JKR, Abbott, JGH Hickford, and RMW Sumner

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 66, Napier, 139-144, 2006
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