Genetic improvement programme for the Latxa and Carranzana breeds.

  • Financing: Basque Government
  • Head researcher: Dr. Eva Ugarte
  • Duration: Annual

In the geographical area of the Basque country, there are two native breeds of dairy sheep: the Latxa (called Manech in the French Basque Country) and the Carranzana. There are two varieties of the Latxa breed: Latxa Cara Negra (LCN) (Black Face Latxa) and Latxa Cara Rubia (LCR) (White Face Latxa). Both are distinguished by the colour of their skin and typically form two genetically separated populations. The total census for these breeds is estimated at about 770,000 sheep, distributed between the Basque Country, Navarre and the French Basque Country. The genetic improvement programme for the Latxa and Carranzana breeds is a programme based on the selection of pure breeds and about 18% of the total population are involved. Within its selection objective, which initially was only the increase in dairy production from sheep as a means to increase the profitability and economic sustainability of dairy sheep farms, other traits have been incorporated, such as the chemical composition of milk and mammary morphology (since 2000). The objective also includes increasing the resistance to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in sheep. The genetic evaluation of breeding animals takes place twice per year. The annual genetic improvements for the entire population participating in the improvement scheme is estimated at about 3-3.5 litres per year, depending on the variety of sheep.

Main Objective:

Optimisation of the methodology and assessment models used for estimating the genetic values of the control animals for the Latxa and Carranzana breeds.

Secondary Objectives:

• Genetic evaluation of traits of production, composition and mammary morphology.
• Genotyping of breeding animals for the PrnP gene.
• To give support and advice within the genetic improvement and selection programme to farmers’ associations and the artificial insemination centre