Genetic selection for reduced somatic cell counts in sheep milk: A review

V. Riggio*, B. Portolano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Mastitis is an inflammation of the udder, mainly caused by bacteria, and leads to economic loss, due to discarded milk, reduced milk production, reduced milk quality and increased health costs in both dairy sheep and cattle. Selecting for increased genetic resistance to mastitis can be done directly or indirectly, with the indirect selection corresponding to a prediction of the bacteriological status of the udder based on traits related to the infection. The most frequently used indirect method is currently milk somatic cell count (SCC) or somatic cell score (SCS). This review reports the state of the art relating to the genetic basis of mastitis resistance in sheep and explores the opportunities to use SCC as selection criterion in a breeding programme to improve resistance to mastitis in sheep, discussing the actual situation and prospects for improvement. It has been stressed, in particular, that although it is unlikely that selection for mastitis resistance by the farmers on their own will be successful, there is good prospect for genetic improvement if reliable pedigree and performance recording is implemented across flocks, combined with breeding value estimation. To achieve this, a strong and well-structured organization to implement and support the programme is essential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-42
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
EventS.I.P.A.O.C. Congress 2012 -
Duration: 26 Sep 201229 Sep 2012


  • Genetic selection
  • Mastitis
  • Sheep
  • Somatic cell count

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic selection for reduced somatic cell counts in sheep milk: A review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this