Genetic evaluation of production traits between and within flocks of merino sheep i. hogget fleece weights body weight and wool quality

Mortimer, S.I.; Atkins, K.D.

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 40(2): 433-444


ISSN/ISBN: 0004-9409
DOI: 10.1071/ar9890433
Accession: 007374000

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Wool production traits were measured on Merino hogget ewes in an unselected multiple-bloodline flock over a 7-year period at Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, N.S.W. The traits measured were greasy fleece weight (GFW), skirted fleece weight (SKFW), yield (Y), clean fleece weight (CFW), fibre diameter (FD), body weight (BWT) and staple length (SL). These measurements were used to examine genetic differences between and within flocks of Merino sheep, and to estimate heritability of and genetic and phenotypic correlations among these traits. Significant strain, flock within strain and flock effects were present for all traits. Interactions between these effects and year were non-significant. Within-flock genetic variance was always larger than between-flock within strain genetic variance for each trait. The influence of environmental effect on these traits was also examined. The environmental effects of birth-rearing type, age at observation and age of dam together accounted for about 7-10% of the total within-flock variation in fleece weights and body weight. After adjusting for significant environmental effects, paternal half-sib heritability estimates were 0.29 .+-. 0.06 for GFW, 0.22 .+-. 0.05 for SKFW, 0.35 .+-. 0.05 for Y, 0.30 .+-. 0.06 for CFW, 0.48 .+-. 0.07 for FD, 0.34 .+-. 0.06 for BWT and 0.44 .+-. 0.07 for SL. Estimates for genetic and phenotypic correlations were in agreement with published estimates except for the genetic correlation between CFW and FD (0.40 .+-. 0.11), and the genetic correlations involving BWT, which were essentially zero. The implications of the results of this study for the genetic improvement of Merino sheep for wool production are discussed.