Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

March 1999


Published in J. Anim. Sci. 1999. 77:2366–2371.


Genetic parameters for wool traits for Columbia, Polypay, Rambouillet, and Targhee breeds of sheep were estimated with single- and multiple-trait analyses using REML with animal models. Traits considered were fleece grade, fleece weight, and staple length. Total number of observations ranged from 11,673 to 34,746 for fleece grade and fleece weight and from 3,500 to 11,641 for staple length for the four breeds. For single-trait analyses, data were divided by age of ewe: young ages (age of 1 yr), middle ages (ages of 2 and 3 yr), and older ages (age greater than 3 yr). Heritability estimates averaged over breeds for fleece grade decreased from .42 at a young age to .37 for older ages. For fleece weight, heritability estimates averaged .52, .57, and .55 within the successively older groups. Heritability estimates for staple length averaged .54 for young and middle age classes. Few older ewes had staple length measurements. After single-trait analyses, new data sets were created for three-trait analyses with traits defined by three age classes when animals were measured. Heritability estimates with three-trait analyses, except for a few cases, were somewhat greater than those from single-trait analyses. For fleece grade, the genetic correlations averaged over breeds were .72 for young with middle, .42 for young with older, and .86 for middle with older age classes. For fleece weight, the average genetic correlations were .81, .83, and .98. For staple length, the average genetic correlation for young with middle age classes was .82. Estimates of genetic correlations across ages varied considerably among breeds. The average estimates of correlations suggest that fleece grade may need to be defined by age, especially for the Columbia and Rambouillet breeds. For fleece weight and staple length, however, the average correlations suggest no need to define those traits by age.