A study of the birthcoat and its relation to kemp succession in the adult fleece of coarse-wool Awassi and Hamdani sheep was carried out, as an aid to early selection. Lambs were covered, at the age of 2 months up to 15 months, by fixing patches of canvas on six body positions.
Both Awassi and Hamdani birthcoats had high halo hair grades. The animals played the dominant role in affecting different traits of the birthcoat which indicated the importance of genetic factors in further development of the birthcoat. The birthcoat of both types of lambs showed only coarse (plateau) and less coarse (saddle) fibre type arrays.
Hamdani had more kemp as Gt and G2 (first and second generations respectively) than Awassi sheep. The shed Gx following the different fibre type arrays, showed some overlapping between plateau and saddle. The same arrays of the birthcoat behaved differently on the different positions, where generally the anterior positions had less kemp than those posteriorly. Percentages of shed fibres were 100, 17·14, 2·38 and 0·35 of halo hairs, super sickles, sickles and chalky curly tips respectively in Awassi. Corresponding figures were 100, 29·26, 5·87 and 7·73 in Hamdani. In Awassi, halo hairs, of the birthcoat, showed a relatively high correlation (P < 0·01) with G1 kemp on the hip and britch. Within saddle array, in Awassi, the correlation between halo hairs and Gx kemp showed the highest values (P < 0·01), whereas in Hamdani the correlation between super sickles in the birthcoat and G2 kemp showed medium values (P < 0·05).
Selection of high halo hair grade lambs, in the birthcoat, that have saddle arrays, with high percentage of sickle fibres in Awassi and with low percentage of super sickles in Hamdani, would result in low percentages of kemp in the adult fleece. High halo hair grades would be necessary for early survival of lambs.