Genetics of Trace-Element Deficiencies in Sheep in Relation to Productivity, Fertility and Health

The project partners are the University of Nottingham, BBSRC, HCC, AHDB, and Agrisearch.

Deficiencies in trace elements such as cobalt (i.e. vitamin B12), sulphur, selenium and zinc can impair animal productivity, fertility and health. Susceptibility of animals to deficiencies in these trace elements and their responses to supplementation is variable, and there is evidence that much of this variation is genetic in origin, with variants residing in components of one-carbon (1C) metabolism.

This project is expected to:

  • identify manageable numbers of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) to allow rams across flocks of different breeds to be screened with confidence for susceptibility to deficiencies in 1C metabolites such as cobalt (B12).
  • establish a selected resident flock of ewes, with contrasting SNP profiles, to test the efficacy of various trace-element supplements administered at key stages of the annual production cycle (e.g. mating, late pregnancy, weaning).