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Sire breed, litter size, and environment influence genetic potential for lamb growth when using sire breeding values

Kelman, K.R.ORCID: 0000-0002-4877-3112, Alston-Knox, C., Pethick, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-3255-7677 and Gardner, G.E.ORCID: 0000-0001-7499-9986 (2022) Sire breed, litter size, and environment influence genetic potential for lamb growth when using sire breeding values. Animals, 12 (4). Article 501.

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Lamb growth can be optimised with genetic selection using sire Australian sheep breeding values, however, breeding value expression has been shown to be reduced with poor nutrition. It was therefore hypothesised that the genetic potential for lamb growth would also be reduced, where production factors such as multiple births limit growth. Live weights at birth, weaning, and post-weaning were collected from more than 18,000 lambs produced over five years and eight locations of the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre Information Nucleus Flock experiment, and the impact of environment, production factors, and genotype was determined using mixed effects regression. The genetic potential for lamb growth was moderated by environment, multiple births, and sire type (p < 0.05). Twin lambs achieved 76% of the expected weight gain at weaning and 58% post-weaning. For triplet lambs weight gains were drastically less at approximately 30% of the expected gain at the same time points. Lambs born to maternal sires consistently had the poorest response to genetic selection, achieving approximately half the expected weight gain. Hence, producers need to temper expectations for growth based on genetic selection, or employ mitigation strategies such as precision feeding, the use of alternate breeds, or place emphasis on the genetic merit of other desirable traits.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Agricultural Sciences
Centre for Animal Production and Health
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
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