Response to Selection for Fertility in a Fall-Lambing Sheep Flock

S. A. Al-Shorepy, D. R. Notter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Selection for fertility in a fall lambing system was applied for 5 yr (1.45 generations) in a crossbred sheep population. Three flocks were involved: a fall-lambing selected (S) flock of 125 ewes and 10 rams, a fall-lambing environmental control (EC) flock of 55 ewes and five rams, and a spring-lambing genetic control flock of 45 ewes and five rams used to produce replacements for EC. Estimated breeding values for fertility (ewes lambing per ewe exposed) were calculated for animals mated in each year of the study using a single-trait animal model and increased more rapidly in S (.0138/yr) than in EC (.0067/yr). After accounting for genetic drift, EBV of ewes mated in S in the final year of the study averaged .070 ± .032 (P = .08). A correlated response of .0087 lambs/yr was observed in S for fall litter size. Genetic trends in all body weights were positive in EC, likely because of supplemental selection on body size in ram lambs used in EC. Ninety-day weight, maternal effects on weaning weight, and 90-d scrotal circumference increased in S, but direct effects on birth and weaning weights declined. In order to focus on realized selection response in fertility, EBV for fertility of 330 replacement ewe lambs from S and EC were calculated using only data collected after their birth. These realized EBV were then regressed on pedigree EBV calculated at the time the ewe lambs were born. The regression was significant when all relationships were used to calculate both EBV (.20 ± .08) but only approached significance (.13 ± .07) when only records of the ewe lambs themselves, their descendants, and their paternal half-sibs were used to calculate realized EBV. Also, EBV for all ewes were calculated at the start of each breeding season and were higher (P < .01) for ewes that subsequently lambed than for open ewes. These results suggest that selection can be used to improve fertility in fall-lambing sheep flocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2033-2040
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Fertility
  • Genetic Trend
  • Reproduction
  • Selection
  • Sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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