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Genetic correlations between wool traits and carcass traits in Merino sheep

Mortimer, S.I., Hatcher, S., Fogarty, N.M., van der Werf, J.H.J., Brown, D.J., Swan, A.A., Jacob, R.H., Geesink, G.H., Hopkins, D.L., Edwards, J.E.H., Ponnampalam, E.N., Pearce, K.L. and Pethick, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-3255-7677 (2017) Genetic correlations between wool traits and carcass traits in Merino sheep. Journal of Animal Science, 95 (6). pp. 2385-2398.

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Genetic correlations between 29 wool production and quality traits and 14 whole carcass measures and carcass component traits were estimated from the Information Nucleus of 8 flocks managed across a range of Australian sheep production environments and genetically linked. Wool data were from over 5,000 Merino progeny born over 5 yr, whereas carcass data were from over 1,200 wether progeny of over 176 sires, slaughtered at about 21 kg carcass weight, on average. Wool traits included yearling and adult records for wool weight, fiber diameter, fiber diameter variation, staple strength, scoured color, and visual scores for breech and body wrinkle. Whole carcass measures included HCW, dressing percentage (DP), and various measures of fat depth and eye muscle dimensions. Carcass components were obtained by dissection, and lean meat yield (LMY) was predicted. Heritability estimates for whole carcass measures ranged from 0.12 ± 0.08 to 0.35 ± 0.10 and ranged from 0.17 ± 0.10 to 0.46 ± 0.10 for carcass dissection traits, with no evidence of important genotype × environment interactions. Genetic correlations indicated that selection for increased clean wool weight will result in reduced carcass fat (−0.17 to −0.34) and DP (−0.48 ± 0.15), with little effect on carcass muscle. Selection for lower fiber diameter will reduce HCW (−0.48 ± 0.15) as well as carcass fat (0.14 to 0.27) and muscle (0.21 to 0.50). There were high genetic correlations between live animal measures of fat and muscle depth and the carcass traits (generally greater than 0.5 in size). Selection to increase HCW (and DP) will result in sheep with fewer wrinkles on the body (−0.57 ± 0.10) and barer breeches (−0.74 ± 0.12, favorable), with minor deterioration in scoured wool color (reduced brightness and increased yellowness). Selection for reduced fat will also result in sheep with fewer body wrinkles (−0.42 to −0.79). Increasing LMY in Merinos through selection would result in a large reduction in carcass fat and DP (−0.66 to −0.84), with a smaller increase in carcass muscle and some increase in wool weight and wrinkles. Although no major antagonisms are apparent between the wool and carcass traits, developing selection indexes for dual-purpose wool and meat breeding objectives will require accurate estimates of genetic parameters to ensure that unfavorable relationships are suitably considered. The findings will aid development of dual-purpose wool and meat breeding objectives.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: American Society of Animal Science
Copyright: © American Society of Animal Science
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