Genetic analyses of live weight and carcass composition traits in purebred Texel, Suffolk and Charollais lambs

SF Fitzmaurice, JE Conington, N Fetherstone, Thierry Pabiou, K McDermott , E Wall, G Banos, Norin McHugh

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Lamb live weight is one of the key drivers of profitability on sheep farms. Previous studies in Ireland have estimated genetic parameters for live weight and carcass composition traits using a multi breed population rather than on an individual breed basis. The objective of the present study was to undertake genetic analyses of three lamb live weight and two carcass composition traits pertaining to purebred Texel, Suffolk and Charollais lambs born in the Republic of Ireland between 2010 and 2017, inclusive. Traits (with lamb age range in parenthesis) considered in the analyses were: pre weaning weight (20 to 65 days), weaning weight (66 to 120 days), post weaning weight (121 to 180 days), muscle depth (121 to 180 days) and fat depth (121 to 180 days). After data edits, 137 402 records from 50 372 lambs across 416 flocks were analysed. Variance components were derived using animal linear mixed models separately for each breed. Fixed effects included for all traits were contemporary group, age at first lambing of the dam, parity of the dam, a gender by age of the lamb interaction and a birth type by rearing type of the lamb interaction. Random effects investigated in the pre weaning and weaning weight analyses included animal direct additive genetic, dam maternal genetic, litter common environment, dam permanent environment and residual variances. The model of analysis for post weaning, muscle and fat depth included an animal direct additive genetic and litter common environment effect only. Significant direct additive genetic variation existed in all cases. Direct heritability for pre weaning weight ranged from 0.14 to 0.30 across the three breeds. Weaning weight had a direct heritability ranging from 0.17 to 0.27 and post weaning weight had a direct heritability ranging from 0.15 to 0.27. Muscle and fat depth heritability estimates ranged from 0.21 to 0.31 and 0.15 to 0.20, respectively. Positive direct correlations were evident for all traits. Results revealed ample genetic variation among animals for the studied traits and significant differences between breeds to suggest that genetic evaluations could be conducted on a per breed basis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-909
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Early online date7 Jan 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - May 2020


  • Ireland
  • Sheep
  • growth
  • muscle
  • parameters
  • sheep


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