• Use of Part Records in Merino Breeding Programs - The Inheritance of Wool Growth and Fibre Traits During Different Times of the Year to Determine Their Value in Merino Breeding Programs

    Fibre diameter can vary dramatically along a wool staple, especially in the Mediterranean environment of southern Australia with its dry summers and abundance of green feed in spring. Other research results have shown a very low phenotypic correlation between fibre diameter grown between seasons. Many breeders use short staples to measure fibre diameter for breeding purposes and also to promote animals for sale. The effectiveness of this practice is determined by the relative response to selection by measuring fibre traits on a full 12 months wool staple as compared to measuring them only on part of a staple. If a high genetic correlation exists between the part record and the full record, then using part records may be acceptable to identify genetically superior animals. No information is available on the effectiveness of part records. This paper investigated whether wool growth and fibre diameter traits of Merino wool grown at different times of the year in a Mediterranean environment, are genetically the same trait, respectively. The work was carried out on about 7 dyebanded wool sections/animal.year, on ewes from weaning to hogget age, in the Katanning Merino resource flocks over 6 years. Relative clean wool growth of the different sections had very low heritability estimates of less than 0.10, and they were phenotypically and genetically poorly correlated with 6 or 12 months wool growth. This indicates that part record measurement of clean wool growth of these sections will be ineffective as indirect selection criteria to improve wool growth genetically. Staple length growth as measured by the length between dyebands, would be more effective with heritability estimates of between 0.20 and 0.30. However, these measurements were shown to have a low genetic correlation with wool grown for 12 months which implies that these staple length measurements would only be half as efficient as the wool weight for 6 or 12 months to improve total clean wool weight. Heritability estimates of fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and fibre curvature were relatively high and were genetically and phenotypically highly correlated across sections. High positive phenotypic and genetic correlations were also found between fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and fibre curvature of the different sections and similar measurements for wool grown over 6 or 12 months. Coefficient of variation of fibre diameter of the sections also had a moderate negative phenotypic and genetic correlation with staple strength of wool staples grown over 6 months indicating that coefficient of variation of fibre diameter of any section would be as good an indirect selection criterion to improve stable strength as coefficient of variation of fibre diameter for wool grown over 6 or 12 months. The results indicate that fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and fibre curvature of wool grown over short periods of time have virtually the same heritability as that of wool grown over 12 months, and that the genetic correlation between fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and fibre curvature on part and on full records is very high (rg > 0.85). This indicates that fibre diameter, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and fibre curvature on part records can be used as selection criteria to improve these traits. However, part records of greasy and clean wool growth would be much less efficient than fleece weight for wool grown over 6 or 12 months because of the low heritability of part records and the low genetic correlation between these traits on part records and on wool grown for 12 months. more »
  • A Review of Genetic Parameter Estimates for Wool, Growth, Meat and Reproduction Traits in Sheep

    Genetic parameters for a range of sheep production traits have been reviewed from estimates published over the last decade. Weighted means and standard errors of estimates of direct and maternal heritability, common environmental effects and the correlation between direct and maternal effects are presented for various growth, carcass and meat, wool, reproduction, disease resistance and feed intake traits. Weighted means and confidence intervals for the genetic and phenotypic correlations between these traits are also presented. A random effects model that incorporated between and within study variance components was used to obtain the weighted means and variances. The weighted mean heritability estimates for the major wool traits (clean fleece weight, fibre diameter and staple length) and all the growth traits were based on more than 20 independent estimates, with the other wool traits based on more than 10 independent estimates. The mean heritability estimates for the carcass and meat traits were based on very few estimates except for fat (27) and muscle depth (11) in live animals. There were more than 10 independent estimates of heritability for most reproduction traits and for worm resistance, but few estimates for other sheep disease traits or feed intake. The mean genetic and phenotypic correlations were based on considerably smaller numbers of independent estimates. There were a reasonable number of estimates of genetic correlations among most of the wool and growth traits, although there were few estimates for the wool quality traits and among the reproduction traits. Estimates of genetic correlations between the groups of different production traits were very sparse. The mean genetic correlations generally had wide confidence intervals reflecting the large variation between estimates and relatively small data sets (number of sires) used. More accurate estimates of genetic parameters and in particular correlations between economically important traits are required for accurate genetic evaluation and development of breeding objectives. more »
  • Genetic Correlations Among and Between Wool, Growth and Reproduction Traits in Merino Sheep

    Data from seven research resource flocks across Australia were combined to provide accurate estimates of genetic correlations among production traits in Merino sheep. The flocks represented contemporary Australian Merino fine, medium and broad wool strains over the past 30 years. Over 110,000 records were available for analysis for each of the major wool traits, and 50,000 records for reproduction and growth traits with over 2700 sires and 25,000 dams. Individual models developed from the single trait analyses were extended to the various combinations of two-trait models to obtain genetic correlations among six wool traits [clean fleece weight (CFW), greasy fleece weight, fibre diameter (FD), yield, coefficient of variation of fibre diameter and standard deviation of fibre diameter], four growth traits [birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight (YWT), and hogget weight] and four reproduction traits [fertility, litter size, lambs born per ewe joined, lambs weaned per ewe joined (LW/EJ)]. This study has provided for the first time a comprehensive matrix of genetic correlations among these 14 wool, growth and reproduction traits. The large size of the data set has also provided estimates with very low standard errors. A moderate positive genetic correlation was observed between CFW and FD (0.29 +/- 0.02). YWT was positively correlated with CFW (0.23 +/- 0.04), FD (0.17 +/- 0.04) and LWEJ (0.58 +/- 0.06), while LW/EJ was negatively correlated with CFW (-0.26 +/- 0.05) and positively correlated with FD (0.06 +/- 0.04) and LS (0.68 +/- 0.04). These genetic correlations, together with the estimates of heritability and other parameters provide the basis for more accurate prediction of outcomes in complex sheep-breeding programmes designed to improve several traits. more »
  • Phenotypic Links Between Skin Thickness, Follicular Density, and Fiber Growth Rates in Alpacas

    One of the benefits of objective measurement of phenotypic alpaca traits is that the resulting measurements can be collected and analyzed for additional insights that can benefit the industry as a whole. Breeders who commission these analyses of their animals, as well as the organizations that provide them, play an important role in advancing the understanding of alpaca trait relationships and their possible underlying genetic links. more »

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