Interpretive Summary: Model definition for genetic evaluation of purebred and crossbred lambs including heterosis
By: Napoleón Vargas Jurado, David R Notter, Joshua B Taylor, Daniel J Brown, Michelle R Mousel, Ronald M Lewis
Crossbreeding is common in commercial sheep enterprises. It allows breeds with different attributes to be combined to generate crossbred progeny tailored to production environments and customer preferences. Additionally, crossbreds often benefit from heterosis, performing at levels above the average of their parental breeds. Over two decades, body weights were collected at birth and at pre-weaning, weaning, and post-weaning ages on purebred and crossbred lambs from semi-prolific (Polypay), western range (Columbia, Rambouillet, Targhee), and terminal sire (Siremax, Suffolk, Texel) breeds at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. When combined, the value of direct heterosis—that due to a lamb being crossbred—and maternal heterosis—that due to the lamb’s dam being crossbred—increased birth (5%) and post-natal (up to 10%) weights in crossbred lambs. This highlights the value of crossbreeding to the U.S. sheep industry, especially in western range production systems. Genetic variation between and within breeds also was detected for the purebred parental breeds. Such heterotic and breed effects must be accounted for if crossbred performance is to be incorporated in genetic evaluation of purebreds. Therefore, these results provide the foundation for utilizing crossbred information in the evaluation and selection of purebred sheep in the United States.
Read the full article on the Journal of Animal Science.