Across-country genetic evaluation of meat sheep from Ireland and the United Kingdom

SF Fitzmaurice*, JE Conington, Kevin McDermott, Noirin McHugh, G Banos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


Genetic evaluations in sheep have proven to be an effective way of increasing farm profitability. Much research has previously been conducted on producing within-country genetic evaluations; however, to date, no across-country sheep genetic evaluations have been produced between Ireland and the UK. The objective of the present study was to examine the feasibility of an across-country genetic evaluation of live body weight and carcass composition traits for Texel sheep raised in Ireland and the UK. The benefit of genetic selection based on across-country genetic evaluations, in comparison with within-country genetic evaluations, was also quantified. Animal traits included early-life and postweaning live body weights, and muscle and fat depth ultrasound measurements. Irish and UK data were combined, common animals with progeny with records in both countries were identified and a series of bivariate analyses were performed separately for each trait to produce across-country genetic evaluations. Fixed effects included contemporary group, age at first lambing of the dam, parity of the dam (Ireland), dam age at lamb's birth (UK), a gender by age of the lamb interaction, a birth type by rearing type of the lamb interaction and country of birth of the lamb. Random effects included the animal additive genetic, dam maternal, litter common environment and residual effect. The model for postweaning weight, muscle depth and fat depth included only the animal additive genetic and litter common environmental random effects. Genetic correlations between the two countries ranged from 0.82 to 0.88 for the various traits. Across-country breeding values were estimated for all animals and response to selection was predicted using the top 10 and top 20 sires in both within- and across-country analyses for the two countries. Overall, results showed that rates of genetic gain could potentially increase from between 2.59% and 19.63% from selection based on across-country genetic evaluations compared to within-country evaluations alone. Across-country evaluations are feasible and would be of significant benefit to both the Irish and UK sheep industries. In order to realize these potential gains though, there would need to be a switch in emphasis by sheep breeders towards using objective traits as their primary selection criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Article number342-350
Pages (from-to)342-350
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Issue number3
Early online date1 Feb 2022
Publication statusPrint publication - May 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Animals
  • Body Weight/genetics
  • Female
  • Ireland
  • Meat
  • Parity
  • Parturition
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Red Meat
  • Sheep/genetics


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