Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Genetic parameters for lamb autopsy traits

D. J. Brown A C , R. M. Jones A and G. N. Hinch B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit1, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B School of Environmental and Rural Science University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: dbrown2@une.edu.au

Animal Production Science 54(6) 736-744 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN13227
Submitted: 3 June 2013  Accepted: 3 January 2014   Published: 18 February 2014

Abstract

Heritabilities and genetic correlations were estimated between individual and composite autopsy traits for lambs autopsied in the Australian Sheep Cooperative Research Centre information nucleus flocks between 2008 and 2011 (n = 3224). Correlations were also estimated between autopsy categories and the production parameters Yearling greasy-fleece weight and Yearling weight, and the potential survival indicator traits: Lamb ease, Thorax circumference and Crown–rump length. All autopsy trait heritability estimates were low (range 0.01–0.04). For all traits, a higher proportion of the variance was partitioned into the maternal permanent environment than the direct effects (range 0.01–0.12), suggesting that selection based on lamb autopsy results would impart little advantage over the lamb survival trait itself in improving lamb survival. Genetic correlations between Lamb ease and all autopsy traits were positive, indicating that birth trauma is related to all causes of lamb deaths and that Lamb ease may be a useful selection criterion in seedstock flocks to reduce overall mortality. There were also positive genetic correlations between Thorax circumference after adjusting for birthweight and two classes of dystocia, as well as a positive correlation between Thorax circumference and incidences of Starvation mismothering, implying that Thorax circumference may be a useful indirect field measurement to reduce death from these causes. Of concern were the antagonistic genetic correlations estimated between Yearling greasy-fleece weight and a composite trait of All Dystocia classes plus Starvation mismothering (0.27 ± 0.15), implying that selection for increased fleece weight could be having a detrimental effect on overall lamb survival.

Additional keywords: dystocia, genetic correlations, heritability, reproduction, survival.


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