Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

March 1999


Published in J. Anim. Sci. 1999. 77:2372–2378.


Correlations between genetic expression in lambs when dams were young (1 yr), middle-aged (2 and 3 yr), or older (older than 3 yr) were estimated with three-trait analyses for weight traits. Weights at birth ( BWT) and weaning ( WWT) and ADG from birth to weaning were used. Numbers of observations were 7,731, 9,518, 9,512, and 9,201 for Columbia ( COLU) , Polypay ( POLY) , Rambouillet ( RAMB) , and Targhee ( TARG) breeds of sheep, respectively. When averaged, relative estimates for WWT and ADG were similar across breeds. Estimates were variable across breeds. On average, direct heritability was greater when environment was young dams (.44 for BWT and .34 for WWT) than when environment was dams of middle age or older (.24 and .28 for BWT and .20 and .16 for WWT, respectively). Maternal heritability was greater when dams were middle-aged or older (.28 and .22 vs .18) for BWT but was greater when dams were younger (.10 vs .05 and .04) for WWT. The estimates of genetic correlations for direct effects across age of dam environments averaged .32 for birth weight and averaged .70 for weaning weight. Average estimates of maternal genetic correlations across age of dam classes were .36 or less for both BWT and WWT. Average estimates of correlations among maternal permanent environmental effects were .49 or less across age of dam classes. Total maternal effects accounted for .33 to .42 of phenotypic variance for BWT and for .09 to .26 of phenotypic variance for WWT. The average estimates of genetic correlations between expressions of the same genotypes with different ages of dams suggest that measurements of BWT of lambs with dams in young, middle, and older age classes should be considered to be separate traits for genetic evaluation and that for WWT measurements with young age of dam class and combined middle and older age of dam classes should be considered to be separate traits for genetic evaluation.