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Preliminary investigations into genetic variation in distance travelled by young sheep

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posted on 2023-05-03, 17:47 authored by Patricia Johnson, Neil Cullen, Sharon HickeySharon Hickey, Kevin Knowler, Brooke BrysonBrooke Bryson, Matthew Hall, Peter PletnyakovPeter Pletnyakov
In pastoral grazing systems, animals need to walk to obtain nutrients (pasture) and water, however, it is also thought that the distance an animal travels is further influenced by factors including the grazing behaviour of the animal, its health status and its general motivation for moving. The purpose of this research was to investigate the repeatability and genetic variation in the trait of distance travelled for New Zealand sheep. Data were collected using global positioning satellite (GPS) collars fitted to 422 animals from three different groups of animals (Group). The animals were allowed ad libitum grazing. Progeny from 44 sires were represented in the data set. The GPS collars were fitted for up to 17 days. Given between-day variability in distance travelled depending on paddock attributes (size and feed availability) all data were scaled to a constant mean. A univariate repeated measures model was fitted to the data using ASREML, with Group fitted within the model, and day within Group fitted as the repeated measure. The heritability estimate for daily distance travelled was 0.36±0.09, with a repeatability estimate of 0.51±0.03. The results indicate that distance travelled is a repeatable trait at the individual animal level and is under moderate genetic control.


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New Zealand Society of Animal Production

Journal title

New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production




Johnson, P. L., Cullen, N., Hickey, S. M., Knowler, K., Bryson, B., Hall, M., & Pletnyakov, P. (2021). Preliminary investigations into genetic variation in distance travelled by young sheep. New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production, 81, 68–73.

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