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The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

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A global research project to curb parasites in farm animals

Parasites such as nematodes and mastitis can cause serious health and welfare problems to both sheep and goat production. As resistance to current drug treatments increases, there is a strong need to develop new methods to rectify the situation.

To understand the genetic basis of traits underlying sustainable production and health, the European Union (EU)-funded 3SR (Sustainable Solutions for Small Ruminants) project has brought together a truly international consortium of 14 partners from 11 countries.

The project also involves close collaboration with the International Sheep Genomics Consortium and uses complementary resources provided by major research projects in Europe, Australasia, the United States, Argentina and China.

The 3SR project's main focus is to mine genomic information of sheep and goats in order to better understand the genetic basis of traits such as susceptibility to mastitis and resistance to nematodes that might have an adverse effect on sustainable breeding. Genomic tools are also being developed to help animals better deal with these parasites.

By working closely with top experts from the international research community in both sheep and goat genomics and using the latest technologies, 3SR has been able to dissect important genetic components controlling these traits.

“We now have a vastly improved understanding of genomic tools for both sheep and goats,” says project coordinator Huw Jones of Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network in the United Kingdom. “This knowledge will lead to better animal welfare and cost savings as a result of fewer sick animals needing treatment,” explains Jones.

One of the many strengths of the 3SR project is the large number and variety of breeds of sheep and goats that are available for use through the wide array of partners from universities, research centres and industry. “The international cooperation under 3SR is certainly unique and brings together individual records and DNA for more than 10,000 sheep and 4,000 goats,” says Jones.

One such international partner is Dr Brian Dalrymple, Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences in Queensland, Australia.

“My involvement in the 3SR project provided a well-defined communication path between the 3SR project partners and the International Sheep Genomics Consortium, so that the 3SR partners had direct access to the most current research plans,” says Dalrymple. “The knowledge gained enabled the 3SR partners to design and implement their work using the best possible data,” adds Dalrymple.

An additional output of 3SR is to disseminate results from the project which will ensure a broad and long-term beneficial impact on European competitiveness and EU policy on animal health, welfare and sustainable agriculture.

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