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Analyses of lamb survival of Scottish Blackface sheep

  • R. M. Sawalha (a1), J. Conington (a1), S. Brotherstone (a1) (a2) and B. Villanueva (a1)

Abstract

Scottish Blackface lamb viability records at birth, and postnatal survival from 1 day to 14 days, from 15 days to 120 days and from 121 days to 180 days were used to determine influential factors and to estimate variance components of lamb survival traits. The binary trait viability at birth was analysed using a linear model whereas the postnatal survival traits were analysed as continuous traits using a Weibull model. The data consisted of about 15 000 survival records of lambs born from 1996 to 2005 on two farms in Scotland. The models included fixed factors that had significant effects and random direct and maternal additive genetic effects and maternal litter effects for viability at birth, and sire and maternal litter effects for the postnatal survival traits. The possible effect of maternal behaviour measured around lambing on lamb survival was investigated in separate analyses. Male lambs were found to be at a higher risk of mortality than females during all periods considered. The effect of type of birth and age of dam was more important during the preweaning period than at later ages. The postnatal hazard rate was not significantly affected by the behaviour score of the dams. The genetic merit of dams had more influence on viability at birth than the genetic merit of lambs themselves. Estimates of heritability for postnatal survival traits were in the range of 0.18 to 0.33 and were significantly greater than zero. These results indicate that lamb survival can be improved through farm management practices and genetic selection. Both animal and maternal genetic effects should be considered in breeding programmes for improving viability at birth.

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References

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Keywords

Analyses of lamb survival of Scottish Blackface sheep

  • R. M. Sawalha (a1), J. Conington (a1), S. Brotherstone (a1) (a2) and B. Villanueva (a1)

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