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News

Vaccine to boost wool growth

CSIRO : 07 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
A prototype vaccine designed to significantly increase wool production is being researched by CSIRO for testing on Australian sheep flocks.
More protein for wool growth
Using the sheep's immune system
Testing phase
A prototype vaccine designed to significantly increase wool production is being researched by CSIRO for testing on Australian sheep flocks.

“This technique does not use drugs, chemicals or antibiotics, it just draws on the animal's own immune system”
Dr André-Denis Wright, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO Livestock IndustriesFunded by Australian Wool Innovation Limited, the research program is focused on decreasing the population of rumen microbial organisms which reduce the flow of protein to the animal's small intestine.

More protein for wool growth
These organisms, called protozoa, make up 50 to 80 per cent of microbial protein in a sheep's rumen. Rumen protozoa consume bacterial protein, effectively reducing the supply of valuable protein to the animal required for wool growth.

Researchers hope that by developing a vaccine to reduce the protozoa population more protein will be available to the animal for growth.

The project is being led by CSIRO senior research scientist Dr André-Denis Wright, a molecular biologist and leading authority on protozoa.

Using the sheep’s immune system
Dr Wright said one of the greatest benefits of a vaccine approach is that it uses the animal's own immune system to decrease the protozoa in order to increase wool and meat production.

‘This technique does not use drugs, chemicals or antibiotics, it just draws on the animal's own immune system to target the rumen protozoa without causing any harm to either the animal or the environment,’ Dr Wright said.

‘In this day and age of increasing concern about food safety and wool residues, the use of a vaccine assists producers to increase production without encountering risks,’ he said.

Testing phase
‘We have been testing several different vaccine formulations that look promising. If the project progresses as anticipated field experiments in large flocks of Merinos could commence late next year.’

CSIRO holds a worldwide patent for this technology.

‘If a vaccine can be developed that has practical application to the sheep industry, the second phase of the project will be to develop a practical method of delivering the vaccine,’ Dr Wright said.

Dr Wright said an additional environmental benefit to the vaccine might be in reducing methane-producing organisms located in or on the protozoa.
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