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Maedi-Visna virus (MVV) and Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) are two pathogens that cause chronic, production-limiting diseases in dairy sheep. Although they are present worldwide, there are no detailed reports on their actual effects on milk traits in the literature. This study was designed to investigate the effects of test positivity to MVV and MAP on ovine milk yield, composition and coagulation properties, and curd-firming over time (CFt) variables in clinically healthy animals at the field level. The additive genetic variation and heritabilities of MVV and MAP positivity were also estimated. Milk samples were collected from 1,079 Sarda sheep kept on 23 farms, and pedigree information was obtained from the flock book. Milk yield was also recorded on the sampling date. Positivity for MVV and MAP was determined from milk samples using indirect ELISA test kits. Milk composition traits were measured by spectroscopy, milk coagulation properties were measured with a Formagraph (Foss Italia, Padua, Italy), and CFt traits were calculated using the data from the Formagraph diagram. The effects of MVV and MAP positivity on milk traits were determined through a set of mixed linear models, which took into account various sources of variation, such as days in milk, parity, and flock effects, and included the effects (positive or negative) of the 2 pathogens. A Bayesian threshold sire model with sire relationship was used to estimate genetic variation and heritability. The overall animal prevalence of MVV-positive ewes was 43.6%; on only 1 farm of the 23 tested were all sampled ewes negative. An overall animal prevalence of 10.6% was recorded for MAP, with 4 farms at 0%. Positivity for MVV significantly affected the logarithmic score of the bacterial count, curd firmness after 30 min and 45 min, and the curd-firming instant rate constant. We found significant effects of MAP infection on milk composition, pH, and rennet coagulation time. The mean of the posterior distributions of heritability estimates on the liability scale was 0.15 for MAP and 0.07 for MVV. Our results demonstrate that only a few traits are negatively affected by MVV and MAP positivity, and that there is exploitable genetic variation in MVV and MAP susceptibility in dairy sheep. Copyright © 2020 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Michele Pazzola, Giantonella Puggioni, Maria N Ponti, Rosario Scivoli, Maria L Dettori, Alessio Cecchinato, Giuseppe M Vacca. Test positivity for Maedi-Visna virus and Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis in Sarda ewes: Effects on milk composition and coagulation traits and heritability estimates for susceptibility. Journal of dairy science. 2020 Oct;103(10):9213-9223

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PMID: 32828507

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