Open Access

Genetic parameters for litter size in sheep: natural versus hormone-induced oestrus

Genetics Selection Evolution200436:543

Received: 7 January 2004

Accepted: 27 April 2004

Published: 15 September 2004


The litter size in Suffolk and Texel-sheep was analysed using REML and Bayesian methods. Litters born after hormonal induced oestrus and after natural oestrus were treated as different traits in order to estimate the genetic correlation between the traits. Explanatory variables were the age of the ewe at lambing, period of lambing, a year*flock-effect, a permanent environmental effect associated with the ewe, and the additive genetic effect. The heritability estimates for litter size ranged from 0.06 to 0.13 using REML in bi-variate linear models. Transformation of the estimates to the underlying scale resulted in heritability estimates from 0.12 to 0.17. Posterior means of the heritability of litter size in the Bayesian approach with bi-variate threshold models varied from 0.05 to 0.18. REML estimates of the genetic correlations between the two types of litter size ranged from 0.57 to 0.64 in the Suffolk and from 0.75 to 0.81 in the Texel. The posterior means of the genetic correlation (Bayesian analysis) were 0.40 and 0.44 for the Suffolk and 0.56 and 0.75 for the Texel in the sire and animal model respectively. A bivariate threshold model seems appropriate for the genetic evaluation of prolificacy in the breeds concerned.


sheep litter size oestrus induction heritability genetic correlation

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Authors’ Affiliations

Centre for Animal Genetics and Selection, Department Animal Production, K.U. Leuven
Station d'amélioration génétique des animaux, Institut national de recherche agronomique


© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004