Analysis of scrapie resistance and productivity of Latvian dark head breed old type sheep compliant to the conservation program of the genetic resources
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Since 2002, the European Union has implemented a disease surveillance programme for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in small ruminants, which can cause very high economic losses to sheep farmers worldwide. In order to detect susceptibility to this fatal sheep disease, surveillance of this disease has been carried out in Europe for several years. Such a programme was introduced in Latvia in 2004 when the country joined the European Union, so Latvia has been monitoring this potential disease for several years. As this fatal disease has not been detected in Latvia, only a few studies have been conducted on scrapie genotypes in the Latvian Dark Head sheep breed and their effect on sheep productivity traits. The aim of the study was to analyse the productivity of the first lambs of Latvian Dark Head sheep in relation to the scrapie genotype. According to the data analysis, a total of 1531 or 97.7% of the ewes with R1, R2 and R3 scrapie genotypes can be used for future sheep breeding. The average age of all ewes included in the Programme was 5 years and the average fertility was 1.8 lambs. Later in the work, 1,335 Latvian Dark Head ewes with 100% bloodiness were analysed and the average fertility of ewes in the R1 and R3 scrapie genotype groups was 1.6 lambs and 1.7 lambs for ewes in the R2 risk group. In the last 10 years, the implementation of the conservation programme of the old type Latvian Dark Head sheep breed has been successful.