Abstract

Sheep in many areas of Australia and New Zealand experience periods of variable feed supply. Merino sheep can be bred to be more resilient to this varying feed supply. Resilient sheep lose less live weight when grazing poor quality pasture. However, we do not know if breeding for live weight change genetically affects reproduction. To estimate genetic correlations between live weight change and reproduction we used information from 6,870 fully pedigreed Merino ewes aged two- to four-years-old. Liveweight change was measured during joining (42 days) on low quality pasture and during lactation (130 days) on high quality pasture. Reproduction traits were total weight of lambs born and weaned and binary traits of whether or not a ewe gave birth to, or weaned, a lamb. Genetic correlations between live weight change and reproduction within age were estimated. There were moderate to high genetic correlations between live weight loss during joining and the chance of having and weaning a lamb. All other correlations were low. Therefore, change in live weight during joining affects the chance of having a lamb but not the weight of those lambs.

RE Vibart, MH Tavendale, JL Burke, and D Pacheco

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 72, Christchurch, 100-105, 2012
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