Genetic evaluation of crossbred lamb production. 2. Breed and fixed effects for post-weaning growth, carcass, and wool of first-cross lambs
The study evaluated post-weaning growth, carcass characteristics, and wool production of crossbred progeny of 91 sires from more than 7 maternal breeds (including Border Leicester, East Friesian, Finnsheep, Coopworth, White Suffolk, Corriedale, and Booroola Leicester). The sires were joined to Merino and Corriedale ewes at 3 sites over 3 years with 3 link sires in common at each site and year. Post-weaning weight at an average age of 200 days of 2841 ewes and 3027 wethers was analysed using mixed model procedures. The wethers were slaughtered at an average age of 214 days and carcass weight, fat, muscle, meat colour, and ultimate pH (24 h post-slaughter) were analysed. For ewes, hogget fleece weight, yield, fibre diameter, and faecal worm egg count (FEC) were analysed. Sire breed was significant (P < 0.01), with a range of 32.8–39.0 kg for post-weaning weight, 19.1–22.8 kg for hot carcass weight, and for carcass fat levels (11.1–17.2 mm at the GR site (FatGR) and 3.4–6.5 mm at the C site, adjusted to 22 kg carcass weight), with the East Friesian cross carcasses being very lean (FatGR 11.1 mm). Sire breed was significant for eye muscle area (P < 0.01) but not for eye muscle depth, meat colour L* (brightness), or ultimate pH. Sire breed was significant (P < 0.01) for greasy and clean fleece weight (CFW), yield, and fibre diameter (FD), with ranges of 0.9 kg (CFW) and 4.6 μm (FD). Sire breed was not significant for FEC. Type of birth and rearing classification was significant for most traits. National estimated breeding values for the sires that were entered by industry breeders indicated that they covered a range of genetic merit for most traits within their respective breeds and were generally representative of the maternal genetics available in the industry. Where there were large differences between the sire mean and breed mean breeding values the effects on crossbred progeny performance would be small and not expected to affect our conclusions about the breed differences reported. The results provide lamb producers with comparative information on sire breeds or growth, carcass and wool traits. The considerable variation among individual sires within the espective breeds will be reported in later papers.