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Selection for high and low prolificacy in Cambridge sheep

  • I. Ap Dewi (a1), J. B. Owen (a1), R. F. E. Axford (a1) and M. T. Beigi-Nassiri (a1)

Abstract

Previous reports have suggested the presence of a major gene influencing prolificacy in the Cambridge sheep breed. To estimate the effect of such a gene, high and low prolificacy groups were established in a Cambridge sheep flock between lambing years 1990 and 1993. In 1990-1991 ovulation rate (OR) was used as the basis for allocating ewes into groups but for 1992-1993 litter size was used also as a secondary selection criterion. In 1990 and 1991 small groups (each with one ram) of extreme phenotype were formed. In 1992 and 1993, six high and six low groups were formed using all available ewes, increasing the number of observations but with less selection pressure for high and low prolificacy. Results from the groups were interpreted on the basis of a major gene with additive effect resulting in three distinct genotypes (CC, Cc and cc). It was assumed, because of the selection method adopted, that CC ewes were exclusively in the high groups, heterozygotes (Cc) were distributed between the high and low groups and that cc ewes were exclusively in the low groups. In 1990-1991 there was a difference in OR of 4·0 between ewes allocated to the high and low groups. In 1992-1993 the difference was 1·9. Litter size differences between groups averaged 0·73. Whilst the high group progeny had higher OR, the differences between groups were less than differences observed between groups based on selected dam records, possibly a reflexion of the young age at which progeny records were collected. Differences between the high and low groups suggest a gene effect for adult ewes of approximately 2·0, with expected OR, above a basal level of 2·0, of 4·0 and 6·0 for heterozygous and homozygous carriers respectively. The effect of the gene in young ewes (predominantly 1 to 2 years) was approximately 0·8.

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Keywords

Selection for high and low prolificacy in Cambridge sheep

  • I. Ap Dewi (a1), J. B. Owen (a1), R. F. E. Axford (a1) and M. T. Beigi-Nassiri (a1)

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