Reproductive Characteristics of Ethiopian Highland Sheep. I. Genetic Parameters of Testicular Measurements in Ram Lambs and Relationship With Age at Puberty in Ewe Lambs uri icon

abstract

  • A study was conducted to estimate heritabilities of, and genetic correlations among, body weight (WT) and testicular measurements - scrotal circumference (SC), testicular diameter (TD), testicular length (TL) and epididymal diameter (ED) - in ram lambs between 6, 9 and 12 months old, and relationship of the testicular traits with age at puberty in ewe lambs (AP). Two fat-tailed sheep breeds, the Horro and Menz, indigenous to the Ethiopian highlands were studied. Experimental lambs were produced by mating 250 oestrus-synchronized ewes of each breed to 10 sires in a single-sire mating system over three mating periods which produced, for this study, a total of 361 ram lambs and 148 ewe lambs, with substantial pedigree information, in two dry seasons (October/November 1992 and 1993) and one wet season (June/July 1993). Mean AP was 322.7 days. Breed was not significant (P > 0.05) for all testicular measurements, except ED at 9 months for which the Horro had a higher (P < 0.01) value (20.6, s.e. 0.38 versus 19.3 s.e. 0.30). Horro ewe lambs had their first oestrus 28 days earlier (P < 0.05) than the Menz. Heritability estimates were obtained from a sire model (M1) and from an individual animal model with additive direct and maternal effects (M2). The maternal effect was not fitted in R 12 for AP. Repeatability and heritability estimates were also obtained by analysing records at the three ages in a repeated measures model (M3). M1 and M2 heritability estimates were generally low to moderate but were associated with large standard errors. Heritability estimates for testicular measurements were generally similar to those for WT. Among the testicular measurements, SC had the highest heritability estimates at 6 (0.45, s.e. 0.24 for M1 and at 12 months (0.41, s.e. 0.21 and 0.41, s.e. 0.20 for M1 and M2, respectively). Model 3 heritability estimates were 0.29 (s.e. 0.14), 0.24 (s.e. 0.12), 0.09 (s.e. 0.07), 0.11 (s.e. 0.08) and 0.12 (s.e. 0.08) for WT, SC, TD, TL and ED, respectively. Only repeatability estimates for WT (0.34, s.e. 0.02) and SC (0.25, s.e. 0.03) were significant. Heritability of AP was estimated at 0.16 (s.e. 0.21) by M1 and 0.14 (s.e. 0.19) by M2. Genetic correlations of AP with testicular measurements, especially with SC (-0.57, s.e. 0.38 and -0.78, s.e. 0.33, at 9 and 12 months, respectively) and TD (-0.72, s.e. 0.33 and -0.83, s.e. 0.48), were desirable and generally high. Adjustment of testicular measurements for liveweight consistently resulted in a reduction in estimates of heritability and genetic correlations. SC was suggested as the most appropriate selection candidate for the genetic improvement of both male and female reproductive performance in these breeds. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2000
  • 2000