Genetic correlations between reproduction of crossbred ewes and the growth and carcass performance of their progeny
Genetic correlations were estimated between first cross ewe reproduction traits and growth and carcass traits of their second cross lamb progeny. The 2460 crossbred ewes were progeny of 74 maternal breed sires and mainly Merino dams. The ewes had 3 joinings to terminal sire rams with 6824 joining records resulting in 9002 lambs born and 7176 lambs slaughtered. The ewe reproduction traits included: fertility, litter size, ewe rearing ability or lamb survival, number of lambs born (NLBj) and weaned (NLWj) per ewe joined, with traits reflecting ewe productivity being total litter weight weaned (TWWj) per ewe joined and the component trait average lamb weaning weight in the litter (AWW). The lamb growth traits included weight of the lambs at birth (BWT), weaning (WWT) and post weaning (PWWT) as well as growth rate pre and post weaning. The lamb carcass traits included hot carcass weight (HCWT), dressing yield (DRESS%), fat depth (FatGR, FatC), eye muscle depth (EMD) and area (EMA) and meat quality traits (colour and pH). The genetic correlations were estimated by bivariate mixed models using ASReml. The genetic correlations between the composite reproduction traits of the ewes and the post-weaning growth rate of their lambs were high (0.67 for NLBj and 0.65 for NLWj). There were moderate positive correlations between NLWj and WWT (0.36), PWWT (0.49) and pre weaning growth (0.36) and NLBj with PWWT (0.31). BWT was negatively correlated with litter size (−0.34) and positively with ewe rearing ability (0.38). Most of the other genetic correlations were smaller than their standard errors which generally ranged from 0.2 to 0.3. The genetic correlations for HCWT with all the ewe reproduction traits were positive and moderate (0.29–0.53) and high with the ewe productivity traits that included weight of lambs (TWWj 0.98 and AWW 0.96). The genetic correlations among the other traits were variable and had high standard errors, generally ranging from 0.1 to 0.5. However there were generally negative and unfavourable genetic correlations between the reproduction traits and DRESS% and meat colour L*, whereas those with carcass fat (FatC and FatGR) were generally negative and favourable.
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