Wool tests determine Merino pregnancy
A trailblazing Australian study has found a non-invasive way to determine sheep pregnancy via wool.
Western Sydney University researchers have detected pregnancy in Merino wool by analysing reproductive hormones in the greasy commodity.
The cortisol and progesterone hormone levels in 46 maiden Merino ewes’ wool was tested in 2017 and compared to levels during pregnancy in a bid to assess how wool-derived hormones varied.
WSU lecturer Edward Narayan, from the university’s School of Science and Health and Stress Lab, spearheaded the study alongside researcher Danielle Webster.
Dr Narayan said using wool as a non-invasive hormone assessment tool for pregnancy was an innovative concept.
“Pregnancy in Merino ewes elicited significant increases in wool progesterone and cortisol levels,” he said.
“While the progesterone levels decreased significantly after birth, cortisol levels did not.
“This was an interesting finding, as analysis of long-term changes in cortisol levels in sheep have been difficult to obtain through blood samples, as they change at a minute scale.”
The project was backed by Australian Wool Innovation.
AWI research general manager Jane Littlejohn said the study could aid stress reduction and impacts on sheep during pregnancy testing.
“We see potential in this new measurement tool for better research,” she said.
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