ResearchPad - sheep Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Breeding practices and trait preferences of smallholder farmers for indigenous sheep in the northwest highlands of Ethiopia: Inputs to design a breeding program]]> The aim of this study was to identify breeding practices and trait preferences for indigenous sheep in three districts (Estie, Farta and Lay Gayient) located in the northwest highlands of Ethiopia. Questionnaire survey and choice experiment methods were used to collect data from 370 smallholder farmers. Respondents were selected randomly among smallholder farmers who own sheep in the aforementioned districts. A generalized multinomial logit model was employed to examine preferences for sheep attributes, while descriptive statistics and index values were computed to describe sheep breeding practices. Having the highest index value of 0.36, income generation was ranked as the primary reason for keeping sheep, followed by meat and manure sources. The average flock size per smallholder farmer was 10.21 sheep. The majority of the smallholder farmers (91%) have the experience of selecting breeding rams and ewes within their own flock using diverse criteria. Given the highest index value of 0.34, body size was ranked as a primary ram and ewe selection criteria, followed by coat color. Furthermore, choice modeling results revealed that tail type, body size, coat color, growth rate, horn and ear size have shown significant influences on smallholder farmers’ preference for breeding rams (P<0.01). The part-worth utility coefficients were positive for all ram attributes except ear size. For breeding ewes, mothering ability, coat color, body size, lambing interval, growth rate, tail type and litter size have shown significant effects on choice preferences of smallholder farmers (P<0.05). Moreover, significant scale heterogeneity was observed among respondents for ewe attributes (P<0.001). Overall, the results implied that sheep breeding objectives suitable for the northwest highlands of the country can be derived from traits such as linear body measurement, weight and survival at different ages, and lambing intervals. However, selection decisions at the smallholder level should not only be based on estimated breeding values of traits included in the breeding objective but instead, incorporate ways to address farmers’ preference for qualitative traits.

<![CDATA[Influence of the tubular network on the characteristics of calcium transients in cardiac myocytes]]>

Transverse and axial tubules (TATS) are an essential ingredient of the excitation-contraction machinery that allow the effective coupling of L-type Calcium Channels (LCC) and ryanodine receptors (RyR2). They form a regular network in ventricular cells, while their presence in atrial myocytes is variable regionally and among animal species We have studied the effect of variations in the TAT network using a bidomain computational model of an atrial myocyte with variable density of tubules. At each z-line the t-tubule length is obtained from an exponential distribution, with a given mean penetration length. This gives rise to a distribution of t-tubules in the cell that is characterized by the fractional area (F.A.) occupied by the t-tubules. To obtain consistent results, we average over different realizations of the same mean penetration length. To this, in some simulations we add the effect of a network of axial tubules. Then we study global properties of calcium signaling, as well as regional heterogeneities and local properties of sparks and RyR2 openings. In agreement with recent experiments in detubulated ventricular and atrial cells, we find that detubulation reduces the calcium transient and synchronization in release. However, it does not affect sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) load, so the decrease in SR calcium release is due to regional differences in Ca2+ release, that is restricted to the cell periphery in detubulated cells. Despite the decrease in release, the release gain is larger in detubulated cells, due to recruitment of orphaned RyR2s, i.e, those that are not confronting a cluster of LCCs. This probably provides a safeguard mechanism, allowing physiological values to be maintained upon small changes in the t-tubule density. Finally, we do not find any relevant change in spark properties between tubulated and detubulated cells, suggesting that the differences found in experiments could be due to differential properties of the RyR2s in the membrane and in the t-tubules, not incorporated in the present model. This work will help understand the effect of detubulation, that has been shown to occur in disease conditions such as heart failure (HF) in ventricular cells, or atrial fibrillation (AF) in atrial cells.

<![CDATA[Effects of realistic sheep elbow kinematics in inverse dynamic simulation]]>

Looking for new opportunities in mechanical design, we are interested in studying the kinematic behaviour of biological joints. The real kinematic behaviour of the elbow of quadruped animals (which is submitted to high mechanical stresses in comparison with bipeds) remains unexplored. The sheep elbow joint was chosen because of its similarity with a revolute joint. The main objective of this study is to estimate the effects of elbow simplifications on the prediction of joint reaction forces in inverse dynamic simulations. Rigid motions between humerus and radius-ulna were registered during full flexion-extension gestures on five cadaveric specimens. The experiments were initially conducted with fresh specimens with ligaments and repeated after removal of all soft tissue, including cartilage. A digital image correlation system was used for tracking optical markers fixed on the bones. The geometry of the specimens was digitized using a 3D optical scanner. Then, the instantaneous helical axis of the joint was computed for each acquisition time. Finally, an OpenSim musculoskeletal model of the sheep forelimb was used to quantify effects of elbow joint approximations on the prediction of joint reaction forces. The motion analysis showed that only the medial-lateral translation is sufficiently large regarding the measuring uncertainty of the experiments. This translation assimilates the sheep elbow to a screw joint instead of a revolute joint. In comparison with fresh specimens, the experiments conducted with dry bone specimens (bones without soft tissue) provided different kinematic behaviour. From the results of our inverse dynamic simulations, it was noticed that the inclusion of the medial-lateral translation to the model made up with the mean flexion axis does not affect the predicted joint reaction forces. A geometrical difference between the axis of the best fitting cylinder and the mean flexion axis (derived from the motion analysis) of fresh specimens was highlighted. This geometrical difference impacts slightly the prediction of joint reactions.

<![CDATA[Grouping effects in numerosity perception under prolonged viewing conditions]]>

Humans can estimate numerosities–such as the number sheep in a flock–without deliberate counting. A number of biases have been identified in these estimates, which seem primarily rooted in the spatial organization of objects (grouping, symmetry, etc). Most previous studies on the number sense used static stimuli with extremely brief exposure times. However, outside the laboratory, visual scenes are often dynamic and freely viewed for prolonged durations (e.g., a flock of moving sheep). The purpose of the present study is to examine grouping-induced numerosity biases in stimuli that more closely mimic these conditions. To this end, we designed two experiments with limited-dot-lifetime displays (LDDs), in which each dot is visible for a brief period of time and replaced by a new dot elsewhere after its disappearance. The dynamic nature of LDDs prevents subjects from counting even when they are free-viewing a stimulus under prolonged presentation. Subjects estimated the number of dots in arrays that were presented either as a single group or were segregated into two groups by spatial clustering, dot size, dot color, or dot motion. Grouping by color and motion reduced perceived numerosity compared to viewing them as a single group. Moreover, the grouping effect sizes between these two features were correlated, which suggests that the effects may share a common, feature-invariant mechanism. Finally, we find that dot size and total stimulus area directly affect perceived numerosity, which makes it difficult to draw reliable conclusions about grouping effects induced by spatial clustering and dot size. Our results provide new insights into biases in numerosity estimation and they demonstrate that the use of LDDs is an effective method to study the human number sense under prolonged viewing.

<![CDATA[The ovine hepatic mitochondrial proteome: Understanding seasonal weight loss tolerance in two distinct breeds]]>

Seasonal weight loss (SWL) is a primary constraint for farmers in the Mediterranean and tropics. One cost-effective solution to SWL is utilizing breeds like the Damara sheep that have adapted to deal with nutritional stress. Previous studies concluded that one of the adaptation mechanisms of SWL is a specialized fatty acid metabolism. Accordingly, hepatic-mitochondrial proteomes were compared across two different breeds (24 sheep total, Merino, n = 12 and Damara, n = 12) and two different diets (restricted vs unrestricted diet, 6 per breed, per diet, 24 total). Mitochondrial-proteins were isolated and relatively quantified using Blue native PAGE / 2D-electrophoresis and then analyzed via mass spectrometry. The tool ReviGO summarized the proteomes’ gene-ontology terms. A total of 50 proteins were identified with 7 changing significantly in abundance (ANOVA p-value<0.05). Specific abundance patterns of corticosteroid and inflammatory response-associated proteins such as annexin and glutamate dehydrogenase suggests that the Damara has an unusual inflammation response when subjected to SWL in addition to its unique metabolism. All significant proteins warrant further study; Annexin in particular shows promise as a potentially useful biomarker.

<![CDATA[Toxicity and oviposition deterrence of essential oils of Clinopodium nubigenum and Lavandula angustifolia against the myiasis-inducing blowfly Lucilia sericata]]>

Cutaneous myiasis is a severe worldwide medical and veterinary issue. In this trial the essential oil (EO) of the Andean medicinal plant species Clinopodium nubigenum (Kunth) Kuntze was evaluated for its bioactivity against the myiasis-inducing blowfly Lucilia sericata (Meigen) (Diptera Calliphoridae) and compared with that of the well-known medicinal plant species Lavandula angustifolia Mill. The EOs were analysed and tested in laboratory for their oviposition deterrence and toxicity against L. sericata adults. The physiology of EO toxicity was evaluated by enzymatic inhibition tests. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of the EOs were tested as well. At 0.8 μL cm-2, both EOs completely deterred L. sericata oviposition up to 3 hours. After 24 h, the oviposition deterrence was still 82.7% for L. angustifolia and the 89.5% for C. nubigenum. The two EOs were also toxic to eggs and adults of L. sericata. By contact/fumigation, the EOs, the LC50 values against the eggs were 0.07 and 0.48 μL cm-2 while, by topical application on the adults, LD50 values were 0.278 and 0.393 μL per individual for C. nubigenum and L. angustifolia EOs, respectively. Inhibition of acetylcholine esterase of L. sericata by EOs (IC50 = 67.450 and 79.495 mg L-1 for C. nubigenum and L. angustifolia, respectively) suggested that the neural sites are targets of the EO toxicity. Finally, the observed antibacterial and antifungal properties of C. nubigenum and L. angustifolia EOs suggest that they could also help prevent secondary infections.

<![CDATA[In-plate recapturing of a dual-tagged recombinant Fasciola antigen (FhLAP) by a monoclonal antibody (US9) prevents non-specific binding in ELISA]]>

Recombinant proteins expressed in E. coli are frequently purified by immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC). By means of this technique, tagged proteins containing a polyhistidine sequence can be obtained up to 95% pure in a single step, but some host proteins also bind with great affinity to metal ions and contaminate the sample. A way to overcome this problem is to include a second tag that is recognized by a preexistent monoclonal antibody (mAb) in the gene encoding the target protein, allowing further purification. With this strategy, the recombinant protein can be directly used as target in capture ELISA using plates sensitized with the corresponding mAb. As a proof of concept, in this study we engineered a Trichinella-derived tag (MTFSVPIS, recognized by mAb US9) into a His-tagged recombinant Fasciola antigen (rFhLAP) to make a new chimeric recombinant protein (rUS9-FhLAP), and tested its specificity in capture and indirect ELISAs with sera from sheep and cattle. FhLAP was selected since it was previously reported to be immunogenic in ruminants and is expressed in soluble form in E. coli, which anticipates a higher contamination by host proteins than proteins expressed in inclusion bodies. Our results showed that a large number of sera from non-infected ruminants (mainly cattle) reacted in indirect ELISA with rUS9-FhLAP after single-step purification by IMAC, but that this reactivity disappeared testing the same antigen in capture ELISA with mAb US9. These results demonstrate that the 6XHis and US9 tags can be combined when double purification of recombinant proteins is required.

<![CDATA[Modelling potential habitat for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in Ladakh, India]]>

The snow leopard Panthera uncia is an elusive species inhabiting some of the most remote and inaccessible tracts of Central and South Asia. It is difficult to determine its distribution and density pattern, which are crucial for developing conservation strategies. Several techniques for species detection combining camera traps with remote sensing and geographic information systems have been developed to model the habitat of such cryptic and low-density species in challenging terrains. Utilising presence-only data from camera traps and direct observations, alongside six environmental variables (elevation, aspect, ruggedness, distance to water, land cover, and prey habitat suitability), we assessed snow leopard habitat suitability across Ladakh in northern India. This is the first study to model snow leopard distribution both in India and utilising direct observation data. Results suggested that elevation and ruggedness are the two most influential environmental variables for snow leopard habitat suitability, with highly suitable habitat having an elevation range of 2,800 m to 4,600 m and ruggedness of 450 m to 1,800 m. Our habitat suitability map estimated approximately 12% of Ladakh's geographical area (c. 90,000 km2) as highly suitable and 18% as medium suitability. We found that 62.5% of recorded livestock depredation along with over half of all livestock corrals (54%) and homestays (58%) occurred within highly suitable snow leopard habitat. Our habitat suitability model can be used to assist in allocation of conservation resources by targeting construction of livestock corrals to areas of high habitat suitability and promoting ecotourism programs in villages in highly suitable snow leopard habitat.

<![CDATA[Chronic stress influences attentional and judgement bias and the activity of the HPA axis in sheep]]>


Environmental challenges are part of everyday life for most domestic animals. However, very little is known about how animals cope emotionally and physiologically with cumulative challenges. This experiment aimed to determine the impact of long-term exposure to environmental challenges on the affective state and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis responses to a subsequent additional acute shearing challenge.


Sheep were exposed to either a long-term environmental challenge (rest disruption and individual housing) in order to induce chronic stress (chronic stress group) or control conditions (group housing in a field with low stress handling and daily feed rewards, control group). Judgement and attention bias were assessed as measures of the emotional state following several days of the challenge or control treatment (pre-shearing tests). In addition, the responsiveness of the HPA-axis was evaluated using a combined Corticotropin Releasing Hormone and Arginine Vasopressin (CRH/AVP) challenge. Finally, all animals were exposed to an acute shearing challenge, then judgement bias (post-shearing test), HPA-axis and internal body temperature responses were determined.


In the pre-shearing judgement bias test, the chronic stress group slightly increased optimism compared to the control treatment. In the attention bias test, the chronic stress group showed reduced vigilance behaviour towards a predator threat and a quicker approach to the food compared to the control treatment. The chronic stress group also had lower plasma ACTH concentrations in response to the CRH/AVP challenge compared to the control group, no differences in cortisol concentrations were found. In the post-shearing judgement bias test, differences in optimism were no longer evident between the chronic stress and control groups. Plasma ACTH concentrations and body temperatures showed a greater increase in response to shearing in the chronic stress group compared to the control group.


Our results suggest that long-term exposure to challenges biased cognitive measures of the affective state towards an increased expectation of a reward and reduced attention towards a threat. The exaggerated ACTH responses in the chronic stress group may be indicative of HPA-axis dysregulation. Despite a period of challenge exposure in the chronic stress group, judgement bias responses to the shearing challenge were similar in the chronic stress and control groups; the reasons for this need further investigation. The altered affective state together with signs of HPA-axis dysregulation may indicate an increased risk of compromised welfare in animals exposed to long-term environmental challenges.

<![CDATA[Seasonal diet composition of Pyrenean chamois is mainly shaped by primary production waves]]>

In alpine habitats, the seasonally marked climatic conditions generate seasonal and spatial differences in forage availability for herbivores. Vegetation availability and quality during the growing season are known to drive life history traits of mountain ungulates. However, little effort has been made to understand the association between plant phenology and changes in the foraging strategies of these mountain dwellers. Furthermore, this link can be affected by the seasonal presence of livestock in the same meadows. The objective of this work was to study the seasonal changes in diet composition of Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) and its relationship to primary production trends in a Mediterranean alpine environment. Moreover, diet composition in two populations with contrasting livestock pressure was compared in order to study the effect of sheep flocks on the feeding behaviour of chamois. From 2009 to 2012, monthly diet composition was estimated by cuticle microhistological analysis of chamois faeces collected in the eastern Pyrenees. The primary production cycle was assessed by remote sensing, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Additionally, the diet of sheep sharing seasonally the subalpine and alpine meadows with chamois was analysed. Diet selection of chamois and sheep and their overlap was also assessed. Our results show an intra-annual variation in the diet composition of Pyrenean chamois and demonstrate a strong relationship between plant consumption dynamics and phenology in alpine areas. In addition, Calluna vulgaris, Cytisus spp. and Festuca spp., as well as forbs in the summer, are found to be key forage species for Pyrenean chamois. Furthermore, this study couldn’t detect differences between both chamois populations despite the presence of sheep flocks in only one area. However, the detection of a shift in the diet of chamois in both areas after the arrival of high densities of multi-specific livestock suggest a general livestock effect. In conclusion, Pyrenean chamois are well adapted to the variations in the seasonal availability of plants in alpine habitats but could be disturbed by the seasonal presence of livestock. Due to the key plants in their diet, we suggest that population management programmes should focus on the preservation of mixed grasslands composed of patches of shrubs and herbs. The effects of climate change and shrub expansion should be studied as they may potentially affect chamois population dynamics through changes in habitat composition and temporal shifts in forage availability.

<![CDATA[Waterhole detection using a vegetation index in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis cremnobates) habitat]]>

In arid ecosystems, desert bighorn sheep are dependent on natural waterholes, particularly in summer when forage is scarce and environmental temperatures are high. To detect waterholes in Sierra Santa Isabel, which is the largest area of desert bighorn sheep habitat in the state of Baja California, Mexico, we used the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and normalized difference water index (NDWI) from Sentinel-2 satellite images. Waterhole detection was based on the premise that sites with greater water availability, where NDVI was higher, can be identified by their density of vegetation greenness. For the detected waterholes, we estimated the escape terrain (presence of cliffs or steep, rocky slopes) around each by the vector ruggedness measure to determine their potential use by desert bighorn sheep based on the animals’ presence as documented by camera traps. We detected 14 waterholes with the NDVI of which 11 were known by land owners and 3 were unrecorded. Desert bighorn were not detected in waterholes with high values of escape terrain, i.e., flat areas. Waterhole detection by NDVI is a simple method, and with the assistance and knowledge of the inhabitants of the Sierra, it was possible to confirm the presence each waterhole in the field.

<![CDATA[Synthetic peptides as a novel approach for detecting antibodies against sand fly saliva]]>


Hosts repeatedly bitten by sand flies develop antibodies against sand fly saliva and screening of these immunoglobulins can be employed to estimate the risk of Leishmania transmission, to indicate the feeding preferences of sand flies, or to evaluate the effectiveness of vector control campaigns. Previously, antibodies to sand fly saliva were detected using whole salivary gland homogenate (SGH) or recombinant proteins, both of which also have their disadvantages. This is the first study on sand flies where short peptides designed based on salivary antigens were successfully utilized for antibody screening.

Methodology/Principal findings

Specific IgG was studied in hosts naturally exposed to Phlebotomus orientalis, the main vector of Leishmania donovani in East Africa. Four peptides were designed by the commercial program EpiQuest-B, based on the sequences of the two most promising salivary antigens, yellow-related protein and ParSP25-like protein. Short amino acid peptides were synthesised and modified for ELISA experiments. Specific anti-P. orientalis IgG was detected in sera of dogs, goats, and sheep from Ethiopia. The peptide OR24 P2 was shown to be suitable for antibody screening; it correlated positively with SGH and its specificity and sensitivity were comparable or even better than that of previously published recombinant proteins.


OR24 P2, the peptide based on salivary antigen of P. orientalis, was shown to be a valuable tool for antibody screening of domestic animals naturally exposed to P. orientalis. We suggest the application of this promising methodology using species-specific short peptides to other sand fly-host combinations.

<![CDATA[Intervention against hypertension in the next generation programmed by developmental hypoxia]]>

Evidence derived from human clinical studies and experimental animal models shows a causal relationship between adverse pregnancy and increased cardiovascular disease in the adult offspring. However, translational studies isolating mechanisms to design intervention are lacking. Sheep and humans share similar precocial developmental milestones in cardiovascular anatomy and physiology. We tested the hypothesis in sheep that maternal treatment with antioxidants protects against fetal growth restriction and programmed hypertension in adulthood in gestation complicated by chronic fetal hypoxia, the most common adverse consequence in human pregnancy. Using bespoke isobaric chambers, chronically catheterized sheep carrying singletons underwent normoxia or hypoxia (10% oxygen [O2]) ± vitamin C treatment (maternal 200−1 IV daily) for the last third of gestation. In one cohort, the maternal arterial blood gas status, the value at which 50% of the maternal hemoglobin is saturated with oxygen (P50), nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability, oxidative stress, and antioxidant capacity were determined. In another, naturally delivered offspring were raised under normoxia until early adulthood (9 months). Lambs were chronically instrumented and cardiovascular function tested in vivo. Following euthanasia, femoral arterial segments were isolated and endothelial function determined by wire myography. Hypoxic pregnancy induced fetal growth restriction and fetal oxidative stress. At adulthood, it programmed hypertension by enhancing vasoconstrictor reactivity and impairing NO-independent endothelial function. Maternal vitamin C in hypoxic pregnancy improved transplacental oxygenation and enhanced fetal antioxidant capacity while increasing NO bioavailability, offsetting constrictor hyper-reactivity and replenishing endothelial function in the adult offspring. These discoveries provide novel insight into mechanisms and interventions against fetal growth restriction and adult-onset programmed hypertension in an animal model of complicated pregnancy in a species of similar temporal developmental milestones to humans.

<![CDATA[Modeling the spatial distribution of grazing intensity in Kazakhstan]]>

With increasing affluence in many developing countries, the demand for livestock products is rising and the increasing feed requirement contributes to pressure on land resources for food and energy production. However, there is currently a knowledge gap in our ability to assess the extent and intensity of the utilization of land by livestock, which is the single largest land use in the world. We developed a spatial model that combines fine-scale livestock numbers with their associated energy requirements to distribute livestock grazing demand onto a map of energy supply, with the aim of estimating where and to what degree pasture is being utilized. We applied our model to Kazakhstan, which contains large grassland areas that historically have been used for extensive livestock production but for which the current extent, and thus the potential for increasing livestock production, is unknown. We measured the grazing demand of Kazakh livestock in 2015 at 286 Petajoules, which was 25% of the estimated maximum sustainable energy supply that is available to livestock for grazing. The model resulted in a grazed area of 1.22 million km2, or 48% of the area theoretically available for grazing in Kazakhstan, with most utilized land grazed at low intensities (average off-take rate was 13% of total biomass energy production). Under a conservative scenario, our estimations showed a production potential of 0.13 million tons of beef additional to 2015 production (31% increase), and much more with utilization of distant pastures. This model is an important step forward in evaluating pasture use and available land resources, and can be adapted at any spatial scale for any region in the world.

<![CDATA[Metagenomic profiling of ticks: Identification of novel rickettsial genomes and detection of tick-borne canine parvovirus]]>


Across the world, ticks act as vectors of human and animal pathogens. Ticks rely on bacterial endosymbionts, which often share close and complex evolutionary links with tick-borne pathogens. As the prevalence, diversity and virulence potential of tick-borne agents remain poorly understood, there is a pressing need for microbial surveillance of ticks as potential disease vectors.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We developed a two-stage protocol that includes 16S-amplicon screening of pooled samples of hard ticks collected from dogs, sheep and camels in Palestine, followed by shotgun metagenomics on individual ticks to detect and characterise tick-borne pathogens and endosymbionts. Two ticks isolated from sheep yielded an abundance of reads from the genus Rickettsia, which were assembled into draft genomes. One of the resulting genomes was highly similar to Rickettsia massiliae strain MTU5. Analysis of signature genes showed that the other represents the first genome sequence of the potential pathogen Candidatus Rickettsia barbariae. Ticks from a dog and a sheep yielded draft genome sequences of Coxiella strains. A sheep tick yielded sequences from the sheep pathogen Anaplasma ovis, while Hyalomma ticks from camels yielded sequences belonging to Francisella-like endosymbionts. From the metagenome of a dog tick from Jericho, we generated a genome sequence of a canine parvovirus.


Here, we have shown how a cost-effective two-stage protocol can be used to detect and characterise tick-borne pathogens and endosymbionts. In recovering genome sequences from an unexpected pathogen (canine parvovirus) and a previously unsequenced pathogen (Candidatus Rickettsia barbariae), we demonstrate the open-ended nature of metagenomics. We also provide evidence that ticks can carry canine parvovirus, raising the possibility that ticks might contribute to the spread of this troublesome virus.

<![CDATA[Correlations between growth and wool quality traits of genetically divergent Australian lambs in response to canola or flaxseed oil supplementation]]>

The correlations between growth and wool traits in response to canola and flaxseed oil supplementation were evaluated in Australian prime lambs. Sixty dual-purpose prime lambs including purebred Merino and crossbred lambs were allocated to one of five treatments of lucerne hay basal diet supplemented with isocaloric and isonitrogenous wheat-based pellets. Treatments were: no oil inclusion (Control); 2.5% canola oil; 5% canola oil; 2.5% flaxseed oil and 5% flaxseed oil, with lamb groups balanced by breed and gender. Each lamb was daily supplemented with 1kg of pellets and had free access to lucerne hay and water throughout the 7-week feeding trial, after a 3-week adaptation. Individual animal basal and supplementary pellet feed intakes were recorded daily, while body conformation traits, body condition scores and liveweights were measured on days 0, 21, 35 and 49. The lambs were dye-banded on the mid-side and shorn before commencing the feeding trial and mid-side wool samples were collected from the same dye-banded area of each lamb at the end of the experiment. Correlations between wool quality traits and lamb performance were non-significant (P>0.05). Oil supplementation had no detrimental effect on lamb growth and wool quality traits (P > 0.05). Gender significantly affected wither height gain and fibre diameter. There were significant interactions between oil supplementation and lamb breed on chest girth. The correlations between clean fleece yield (CFY) and other wool quality traits were moderate ranging from 0.29 to 0.55. Moderate to high correlations between fibre diameter (FD) and other wool quality traits were detected (0.46–0.99) with the strongest relationship between FD and wool spinning fineness (SF). The relationship between CFY and wool comfort factor (CF) were positive, while negative relationships between CFY and the others were observed. A combination of 5% oil supplementation and genetics is an effective and strategic management tool for enhancing feed efficiency and growth performance without negative effects on wool quality in dual-purpose lamb production. This is a good outcome for dual-purpose sheep farmers. It essentially means the absorbed nutrients in supplemented lambs yielded good growth performance without any detrimental impact on wool quality; a win-win case of nutrient partitioning into the synthesis of muscle and wool without compromising either traits.

<![CDATA[A cross-sectional serosurvey in a sheep population in central Italy following a bluetongue epidemic]]>

Bluetongue (BT) is a viral disease that affects ruminants and is transmitted by midges of the genus Culicoides spp. The seroprevalence, the clinical form and the occurrence rates significantly differ in relation to several factors such as bluetongue virus (BTV) serotype, host species, breed susceptibility, specific previous exposure, vector ecology, husbandry and health status. Following the 2001–2006 BTV2 and BTV16 epidemics in central Italy, a new epidemic caused by BTV1 occurred in 2013–2015 causing 398 outbreaks in a susceptible population of about 1 million ruminants. The present study assessed the BTV1 seroprevalence in the sheep population of central Italy by conducting two cross-sectional surveys, in the proximity of and within BT outbreak farms. A total of 2,984 sheep from 437 farms were sampled. The animal-level prevalence was 19% (95% CI: 17–21%), the between-herd prevalence was 46% (95% CI: 41–51%) and the within-herd prevalence was 21% (95% CI: 16–26%). Risk factors were investigated by logistic regression models. Living on a farm where an outbreak occurred and the number of outbreaks in proximity of the farm were identified as risk factors, while herd size was identified as a protective factor. This study represents the first BT survey in southern Europe and reports valuable findings on BTV epidemiology. Despite intensive virus circulation, the estimated seroprevalences were low. The assessment of the population immunity level is crucial for defining an efficient vaccination strategy and for predicting the impact of future virus circulation. In view of the low seroprevalence detected albeit an extensive BTV1 circulation, the population immunity was likely to be inadequate in preventing new BTV1 epidemics. Moreover, considering the recurrent introduction of new serotypes from North Africa and the Balkans, the control of multi-serotype BTV infections will continue to present a challenge in the near future.

<![CDATA[Morphological variations of the interatrial septum in ovine heart]]>

Smooth septum interatrial septum, patent foramen ovale (PFO) channel and atrial septal pouches (SPs) are commonly described variants in humans. Recent discoveries on the clinical significance of left-sided SP may encourage the creation of new strategies and devices for the management of SPs. However, these strategies may first be tested in the ovine model before implementation in humans. Unfortunately, little is known about the presence of SPs in ovine. In this study a total of 60 ovine (Ovis aries) hearts were examined. The interatrial septum morphology was assessed and the PFO channel and SPs were measured. The most commonly occurring variant were PFO channels (25.0%) with channel lengths of 5.4±2.3 mm. Smooth septums were observed in 18.3% of hearts. In the remaining cases, septums had a left septal ridge (15.0%), left SP (11.7%), left septal bridge (10.0%), right SP (10.0%), or had both a right SP and left septal ridge (10.0%). No double SPs were observed. The mean right SP depth was 3.4 ± 1.2 mm, and its mean ostium width and height were 7.9±1.8 mm and 2.8±1.0, respectively. For the left SP, the mean depth was 6.0±1.7mm, the ostium width was 7.9±2.4mm, and the ostium height was 4.1±1.6mm (range: 2.3–6.4mm). In conclusion the interatrial septum of ovine hearts exhibit morphologies that are more similar to humans than they are to swine, which should be taken into account during experimental studies. The presence of a left SP in sheep hearts make ovine models a promising alternative to the human heart for developing left-sided SP management devices and techniques.

<![CDATA[Supplementation of in vitro culture medium with FSH to grow follicles and mature oocytes can be replaced by extracts of Justicia insularis]]>

The present study evaluated the effect of supplementing in vitro culture medium with J. insularis compared to FSH on isolated secondary follicles and in vitro maturation of oocytes from those follicles. Secondary follicles were isolated from sheep ovaries and individually cultured for 18 days in α-MEM+ (Control), α-MEM+ supplemented with 100 ng/mL recombinant bovine follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) or with 0.3, 1.25, or 2.5 mg/mL of J. insularis extract (JI0.3, JI1.25, and JI2.5, respectively). Culture medium collected every 2 days was used to measure ROS levels. At the end of the culture period, cumulus oocytes complex (COCs) were collected and matured in vitro. Follicular walls were used for mRNA quantitation. JI0.3 led to a higher (P < 0.05) percentages of intact follicles than other groups after 18 days of culture. While follicular diameter remained unchanged from Day 6 onwards with JI0.3 and FSH, percentages of antral cavity formation were higher (P < 0.05) with JI0.3 at Day 6 than in all other treatments. No differences were observed between controls and treatment groups regarding ROS levels and mRNA expression of genes. Viability of resulting oocytes was higher (P < 0.05) in JI0.3 compared to FSH. Interestingly, in control experiment, supplementation of maturation medium with JI0.3 led to higher (P < 0.05) percentages of metaphase II compared to controls. Although more validations will be needed, it seems that this natural extract could be used as a cheap and easily available alternative to commercial FSH.

<![CDATA[Inferring symmetric and asymmetric interactions between animals and groups from positional data]]>

Interactions between domestic and wild species has become a global problem of growing interest. Global Position Systems (GPS) allow collection of vast records of time series of animal spatial movement, but there is need for developing analytical methods to efficiently use this information to unravel species interactions. This study assesses different methods to infer interactions and their symmetry between individual animals, social groups or species. We used two data sets, (i) a simulated one of the movement of two grazing species under different interaction scenarios by-species and by-individual, and (ii) a real time series of GPS data on the movements of sheep and deer grazing a large moorland plot. Different time series transformations were applied to capture the behaviour of the data (convex hull area, kth nearest neighbour distance, distance to centre of mass, Voronoi tessellation area, distance to past position) to assess their efficiency in inferring the interactions using different techniques (cross correlation, Granger causality, network properties). The results indicate that the methods are more efficient assessing by-group interaction than by-individual interaction, and different transformations produce different outputs of the nature of the interaction. Both species maintained a consistent by-species grouping structure. The results do not provide clear evidence of inter-species interaction based on the traditional framework of niche partitioning in the guild of large herbivores. In view of the transformation-dependent results, it seems that in our experimental framework both species co-exist showing complex interactions. We provide guidelines for the use of the different transformations with respect to study aims and data quality. The study attempts to provide behavioural ecologists with tools to infer animal interactions and their symmetry based on positional data recorded by visual observation, conventional telemetry or GPS technology.