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A comparison of Scottish Blackface and Cheviot ewes and five sire breeds in terms of lamb output at weaning in hill sheep systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2001

A. F. CARSON
Affiliation:
The Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough BT26 6DR, UK The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland and The Queen's University of Belfast, Newforge Lane, Belfast BT9 5PX, UK
D. IRWIN
Affiliation:
The Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough BT26 6DR, UK
D. J. KILPATRICK
Affiliation:
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland and The Queen's University of Belfast, Newforge Lane, Belfast BT9 5PX, UK

Abstract

A study was carried out on six hill farms in Northern Ireland over 2 years (1996–1998) to investigate the effect of ewe and ram breed on ewe prolificacy, lamb viability and weaned lamb output. On each farm, groups of 40 Scottish Blackface ewes (mature weight of 53·8 kg) were mated to Scottish Blackface, Blue-Faced Leicester and Texel rams. Similarly, groups of 40 Wicklow Cheviot ewes (mature weight 63·7 kg) were mated to Cheviot, Suffolk and Texel rams. All ewe×ram breed combinations were present on each farm. Overall, ewe prolificacy was similar in Blackface and Cheviot ewes (1·52 and 1·55 (S.E. 0·026) lambs born/ewe lambed). However, there was a farm×ewe breed interaction (P < 0·001) indicating that, whilst prolificacy was similar in Blackface and Cheviot ewes on the majority of farms (4 out of 6), on one farm prolificacy was higher in Blackface and on another lower, compared with Cheviot ewes. There were no farm×breed interactions for any of the other main production traits. The proportion of ewes lambing without assistance was higher in Cheviot compared with Blackface ewes when crossed with Texel sires (P < 0·001). Cheviot ewes produced heavier Texel-sired lambs compared with Blackface ewes (4·76 versus 4·51 (S.E. 0·076) kg; P < 0·05). Mortality levels were similar in lambs produced from Blackface and Cheviot ewes. The weight of lamb weaned per ewe was higher in Cheviot compared with Blackface ewes (41·5 versus 38·8 (S.E. 1·01) kg/ewe lambed; P < 0·05). However, the weight of lamb weaned per kg of ewe metabolic weight did not differ significantly between the breeds.

With Blackface ewes, the proportion of ewes lambing without assistance was lower for Blue-Faced Leicester compared with Blackface sires (P < 0·001). In addition, the proportion of ewes lambing without assistance was lower (P < 0·001) for Texel compared with both Blackface and Blue-Faced Leicester-sired lambs. Lamb birth weights were higher in Blue-Faced Leicester (P < 0·05) and Texel (P < 0·001) compared with Blackface-sired lambs (4·38, 4·51 and 4·09 (S.E. 0·076) kg, respectively). Similarly, the weight of lamb weaned per ewe lambed was higher (P < 0·001) with Blue-Faced Leicester and Texel compared with Blackface sires (39·8, 38·8 and 33·8 (S.E. 1·01) kg, respectively). The carcass weight of the male lambs 3 weeks post-weaning was significantly higher (P < 0·001) in Blue-Faced Leicester and Texel compared with Blackface-sired lambs (12·5, 12·0 and 10·2 (S.E. 0·20) kg, respectively). Carcass conformation classification was higher in Texel compared with Blue-Faced Leicester and Blackface-sired lambs (P < 0·001). Fat classification was higher in Texel (P < 0·01) and Blue-Faced Leicester (P < 0·05) compared with Blackface-sired lambs. With Cheviot ewes, a greater number of ewes lambed unaided (P < 0·05) with Cheviot and Texel compared with Suffolk-sired lambs. The number of lambs born dead was higher (P < 0·01) with Suffolk compared with Cheviot and Texel-sired lambs (0·14, 0·08 and 0·07 (S.E. 0·016) lambs born dead/ewe lambed, respectively). Growth rates were higher in Suffolk compared with Cheviot-sired lambs (P < 0·05). Overall, Suffolk (P = 0·06) and Texel (P < 0·001) sires produced a greater weight of lamb at weaning compared with Cheviot sires (40·0, 41·5 and 36·9 (S.E. 1·01) kg, respectively). Carcass weight of lambs 3 weeks post-weaning was higher for Suffolk (P < 0·05) and Texel (P < 0·01) compared with Cheviot-sired male lambs. Carcass conformation classification was higher in Texel and Suffolk compared with Cheviot-sired (P < 0·001) lambs. Fat classification was also higher in Texel compared with Cheviot-sired lambs (P < 0·05). Carcass chemical composition was not significantly affected by lamb genotype.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2001 Cambridge University Press

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