Rights: © Copyright 2016 University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 21 July 2010 Download

Dr David Scobie explains how the wide range of sheep genotypes and breeds in New Zealand make it unlikely that sheep biodiversity will be affected by breeding easy care sheep traits onto existing breeds.

Terms to discuss: biodiversity, genotypephenotype, genes, environment, traits, breeds

Dr David ScobieAgResearch
We have such a range of sheep breeds and so many sheep in New Zealand – about 30 million ewes that have lambs every year – there is a huge range of genotypes and breeds out there. Genotype is genetically defined, and phenotype is what is expressed when the embryo is first conceived – it gets a package of genes, and that determines what that animal should look like, then environment modifies what it eventually does look like.

When a breed starts looking like it’s getting scarce, there is this group called the Rare Breeds Society, and they will take them under their wing and get somebody to raise those sheep.

We have lost a few genotypes along the way. Some of those characteristics which we just bred as a fascination, you know because of humans the way we are, and the sheep is better off without them, so we have lost some of those traits. But I don't think we are going to decimate the biodiversity of the sheep population, because we can put these traits on any sort of breed. Yes, we will change that breed, but we will still have a large range of breeds that just have these traits added onto them as part of the whole package.

Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand
Pav, Bad as Bees