A group of researchers from the University of Western Australia has succeeded in identifying a compound present in merino sheep wool that is attractive to Australian butterflies.
According to Phil Vercoe, one of the authors of the study, this result could help develop new therapies or medicines to combat flystrike, a disease that affects sheep and spreads through flies and gnats.
The sheep are sensitive to this disease because of their thick wool: if the latter is dirty or contaminated with fluids, the flies can more easily lay eggs inside the same wool.
The larvae, once they have developed, begin to feed on the flesh of the sheep causing the disease which, as main symptoms, sees strange behavior of the animal and matted wool.
As Vercoe explains, if the smell of wool that attracts flies is inherited, the compounds that scientists have just identified can lead to the development of more effective therapies to combat this disease in sheep: “It would be a great thing for the industry because would improve animal welfare and productivity.”
According to the scientist, the cost that this disease entails for breeders and for the whole industry connected to sheep is 280 million dollars a year.