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Interpretive Summary: Genetic and phenotypic relationships between ewe reproductive performance and wool and growth traits in Uruguayan Ultrafine Merino sheep

By: Zully Ramos, Dorian J Garrick, Hugh T Blair, Ignacio De Barbieri, Gabriel Ciappesoni, Fabio Montossi, Paul R Kenyon

Fiber diameter (FD), clean fleece weight (CFW), live weight (LW), and reproductive performance are important traits in Merino flocks. This study estimated the genetic parameters for a range of production traits and ewe reproductive performance. Data from approximately 5,700 mixed-sex yearling lambs and 2,000 mixed-age ewes born in a single Uruguayan Merino flock were analyzed. There were generally favorable (positive) genetic correlations between LW and reproduction traits. The genetic relationships between FD and reproduction traits were generally negligible. In addition, moderate unfavorable (negative) genetic correlations were found between adult CFW and ewe reproduction traits. This study indicates that selecting finer fleeces will yield little to no change in ewe reproduction traits, whereas heavier fleeces are related to reduced ewe reproductive performance. On the other hand, genetically heavier yearling ewes will display greater reproductive performance.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.