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Estimation of variance components for lamb weights in three sheep populations

, : Estimation of variance components for lamb weights in three sheep populations. Journal of Animal Science 72(5): 1184-1190

Variance components were estimated for lamb weight at birth, 50 d, and 100 d of age. Data from the Canadian flock recording program for lambs born in 1977 to 1991 for Hampshires (n = 6,395) and Polled Dorsets (n = 29,204) and 1982 to 1991 for Romanovs (n = 3,432) were studied. Observed weights were pre-adjusted for the effects of age of dam, sex of lamb, birth-rearing type, month or quarter of year of birth, parity-lambing interval, and age of dam at first lambing, using estimates derived from a fixed effects model including contemporary groups plus these factors. Pre-adjusting for nuisance variables reduced the number of equations in the model for variance component estimation. A single-trait animal model with derivative-free restricted maximum-likelihood procedures was used. Random effects were additive direct and maternal genetic, litter (common environmental), and error. An alternate model excluded maternal genetic effects. Estimates of litter variance as a proportion of phenotypic variance were of moderate size (.12 to .43) and consistent across breeds and models. The mean correlation between direct and maternal genetic effects, across traits and breeds, weighted by the number of animals, was -.40 (SE = .15). The maternal genetic variance or direct-maternal genetic covariance component, or both, was different from zero (P < .05) for all traits in Hampshires and Polled Dorsets, suggesting that maternal effects were important for weight of lambs even at 100 d of age. Estimates of direct heritability ranged from .05 to .45, varying across traits, breeds, and models. In Romanovs, with the complex model, no estimate of direct or maternal heritability or direct-maternal genetic correlation was different from zero (P > .10), which emphasizes differences in these variance components across the breeds and has implications for genetic evaluation programs.

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Accession: 002373512

PMID: 8056662

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