- Open Access
Sources of variation and genetic profile of spontaneous, out-of-season ovulatory activity in the Chios sheep
Genetics Selection Evolutionvolume 35, Article number: 65 (2003)
Organising the breeding plan of a seasonally breeding species, such as sheep, presents a challenge to farmers and the industry as a whole, since both economical and biological considerations need to be carefully balanced. Understanding the breeding activity of individual animals becomes a prerequisite for a successful breeding program. This study set out to investigate the sources of variation and the genetic profile of the spontaneous, out-of-season ovulatory activity of ewes of the Chios dairy sheep breed in Greece. The definition of the trait was based on blood progesterone levels, measured before exposing the ewes to rams, which marks the onset of the usual breeding season. Data were 707 records, taken over two consecutive years, of 435 ewes kept at the Agricultural Research Station of Chalkidiki in northern Greece. When all available pedigree was included, the total number of animals involved was 1068. On average, 29% of all ewes exhibited spontaneous, out-of-season ovulatory activity, with no substantial variation between the years. Significant sources of systematic variation were the ewe age and live weight, and the month of previous lambing. Older, heavier ewes, that had lambed early the previous autumn, exhibited more frequent activity. Heritability estimates were 0.216 (± 0.084) with a linear and 0.291 with a threshold model. The latter better accounts for the categorical nature of the trait. The linear model repeatability was 0.230 (± 0.095). The results obtained in this study support the notion that spontaneous out-of-season ovulatory activity can be considered in the development of a breeding plan for the Chios sheep breed.
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