Genetic and environmental parameters for ewe productivity in Merinos
Data of 3272 lambing records collected on 818 ewes born from 689 dams and sired by 371 rams were used in the evaluation of ewe lifetime productivity (total number born, number weaned and total weight weaned). These records were collected from ewes born from 1969 to 1994 and which gave birth during the period from 1971 to 1999. Year of birth of ewe and ewe two-tooth liveweight affected the ewe productive traits investigated. Multiple born ewes were superior both in total number of lambs born and weaned compared to singles. Heritability estimates of 0.23, 0.17 and 0.20 were obtained for total number of lambs born (TLB), total number of lambs weaned (TLW) and total weight of lamb weaned per ewe over four lambing opportunities (TWW), respectively. For total weight weaned per ewe over the first lambing opportunity (TWW1) a heritability of 0.02 was estimated. Genetic correlation estimates of -0.10, 0.57 and 1.00 were obtained between TWW1 and TLB, TWW1 and TLW and TWW1 and TWW, respectively. High and positive genetic correlations ranging from 0.61 to 0.92 were estimated between ewe lifetime traits. Genetic progress could be expected when selection is applied on these traits. © South African Society for Animal Science.