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Heritability of ram mating success in multi-sire breeding situations

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posted on 2023-05-03, 17:13 authored by Jenny JuengelJenny Juengel, Sharon HickeySharon Hickey, Shannon ClarkeShannon Clarke, Neil Cullen, John McEwanJohn McEwan, Ken Dodds
Multi-sire mating of a mob of ewes is commonly used in commercial sheep production systems. However, ram mating success (defined as the number of lambs sired by an individual) can vary between rams in the mating group. If this trait was repeatable and heritable, selection of rams capable of siring larger numbers of lambs could reduce the number of rams required for mating and ultimately lead to increased genetic gain. However, genetic correlations with other productive traits, such as growth and female fertility, could influence the potential for ram mating success to be used as a selection trait. In order to investigate this trait, parentage records (including accuracy of sire assignment) from 15 commercial ram breeding flocks of various breeds were utilised to examine the repeatability and heritability of ram mating success in multi-sire mating groups. Additionally, genetic and phenotypic correlations with growth and female fertility traits were estimated using ASREML. The final model used for the ram mating success traits included age of the ram and mating group as fixed effects. Older rams (3 + years old) had 15-20% greater mating success than younger rams (1 or 2 years of age). Increasing the stringency of the criteria for inclusion of both an individual lamb, based on accuracy of sire assignment, or a whole mating group, based on how many lambs had an assigned sire, increased repeatability and heritability estimates of the ram mating success traits examined. With the most stringent criteria employed, where assignment of sire accuracy was > 0.95 and the total number of lambs in the progeny group that failed to have a sire assigned was < 0.05, repeatability and heritability for loge(number of lambs) was 0.40 + 0.09 and 0.26 + 0.12, respectively. For proportion of lambs sired, repeatability and heritability were both 0.30 + 0.09. The two ram mating traits (loge(nlamb) and proportion) were highly correlated, both phenotypically and genetically (0.88 + 0.01 and 0.94 + 0.06, respectively). Both phenotypic and genetic correlations between ram mating success and growth and other female fertility traits were low and non-significant. In conclusion, there is scope to select rams capable of producing high numbers of progeny and thus increase selection pressure on rams to increase genetic gain.


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© The Animal Consortium 2018. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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Oxford University Press

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Juengel, J. L., Hickey, S. M., Clarke, S. M., Cullen, N. G., McEwan, J. C., & Dodds, K. G. (2019). Heritability of ram mating success in multi-sire breeding situations. Animal, 13(5), 917-923. doi:10.1017/S1751731118002446


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