Animal Science Department

 

Date of this Version

2006

Citation

Van Heelsum, Lewis, Davies & Haresign in Animal Science (2006) 82.

Comments

Copyright 2006, Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.

Abstract

Sheep farming in the UK is characterized by a crossbreeding system where ‘Longwool’ sire breeds are mated with hill dam breeds, with the crossbred (F1) ewe lambs retained for mating to terminal sires. The F1wether and terminal-sire cross lambs are marketed for meat. At selection, F1females are typically assessed visually for type traits relevant to dam lines, and these traits could be considered as goal traits. Their offspring and their male sibs derive their value from carcass traits. This study investigated the genetic relationships between type (subjective) and carcass (objective) traits in F1lambs, and their potential impact on genetic improvement within this production system. Bluefaced Leicester rams were crossed with Scottish Blackface and Hardy Speckled Face ewes to produce F1(‘Mule’) lambs. The wether lambs (no. ¼ 2197) were selected for slaughter at a target condition (a carcass fat score of 2/3L) and a number of live and carcass traits were measured. Carcass dissection data were collected on approximately one-third of these wether lambs. The ewe lambs (no. ¼ 2423) were measured for similar live traits but at a fixed age (195 ^ 5·5 days). In addition, they were subjectively assessed for a number of functional and type traits. Genetic parameters among these traits were then estimated. Heritabilities for the ewe traits were generally moderate (0·18 to 0·31) and genetic correlations between the traits were variable, with some moderate to high correlations (favourable in direction) of growth/carcass traits with overall type traits. Live weight at slaughter in wethers was highly correlated to live weight at constant age in ewes (r ¼ 0·72). In the wethers, live, cold carcass and lean weight had moderately high heritabilities (between 0·26 and 0·46), and were positively correlated with slaughter age ($0·79). However, age at slaughter in wethers was highly negatively correlated with growth/carcass and overall type traits in ewes (between 20·45 and 20·97), perhaps reflecting differences in maturity in lambs measured at a target fatness versus age. The correlations of most other type traits in ewes with wether traits were non-significant. These results show that the subjectively assessed type traits (at least as measured in this study) will not deteriorate, and some will in fact be improved, in a selection programme aiming to improve carcass merit.

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