Intern bridges work between Brazil and NZ

Marina Souza came to AbacusBio as an intern in August 2015 – as part of her animal science degree at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil.

Originally from Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, Marina is working with AbacusBio consultants Bruno Santos and Peter Amer on assessing opportunities to grow Brazil’s aquaculture and sheep industries.

Brazil’s sheep industry has evolved over the past few years and is set to grow, as demand for sheep meat increases in a steady rate.

In collaboration with a Brazilian company Aries, AbacusBio developed a genetic evaluation database, OviGol in 2008 for farmers to support breeding and selection decisions.

OviGol was designed to improve productivity by allowing farmers to compare animals based on genetic merit.

As part of Marina’s internship at AbacusBio, she analysed data in the OviGol database, and evaluated heritabilities and genetic parameters in Brazilian flocks.

Breeding values and economic selection indices were calculated using quantitative genetics, for a number of commercially important traits.

“By doing so, OviGol allows farmers to determine the best sires for specific ewes, while defining the most appropriate ewe lambs or hoggets to be kept as replacements,” Marina remarks.

Having grown up on a farm raising fish, cattle, and sheep, and growing apples, she enjoys being involved in all aspects of animal production and is passionate about improving livestock productivity.

Marina is also enthusiastic about learning the diff erent management practices in sheep farming between her home country Brazil and New Zealand.

“Farming conditions back home are so much different from here in New Zealand,” Marina says.

A key difference would be the environmental conditions of farming systems, she adds.

A common issue in Brazilian agriculture is the high risk of livestock to diseases such as parasitic worms and facial eczema.

This places a greater emphasis on the need to select for disease resistance, amongst other desirable traits.

“The internship has given me a new perspective on genetic improvement and the importance of stock selection based on genetic merit – rather than through shows.”

After her internship at AbacusBio in November, Marina has returned to Brazil for her university graduation and hopes to kick-start her career in animal science.