Genetic and phenotypic correlations between adult body condition scores (BCS) throughout the production cycle and eye muscle depth, fat depth, two-year-old greasy fleece weight, fibre diameter, staple length and staple strength were estimated from 2,007 pedigree-recorded merino ewes born between 2013 and 2015. The heritability estimates of BCS at pre-mating, mid-pregnancy, pre-lambing and weaning were 0.66, 0.39, 0.46 and 0.32 respectively. The heritability estimates for yearling greasy fleece weight, fibre diameter and staple length were 0.65, 0.86 and 0.73 respectively, and all these traits were positively genetically correlated with BCS. The genetic correlations among the four BCS measurements ranged from 0.39-0.83, while the phenotypic correlations ranged from 0.22-0.45. Genetic correlations between BCS and fat depth ranged from 0.67 to 0.83. Given the high heritability of BCS and high genetic correlations between BCS measurements, there is clear scope for selection to alter BCS. Mating appears to be the best time to record BCS for genetic selection, as it had the greatest heritability estimate and the greatest genetic correlations with ultrasound measurements of fat depth and eye-muscle depth and all wool traits except fibre diameter coefficient of variation and greasy fleece weight.

IM, Tait, Kenyon PR, DJ Garrick, AB Pleasants, and RE Hickson

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 78, Lincoln, 71-75, 2018
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