Ewe lambs with higher breeding values for growth achieve higher reproductive performance when mated at age 8 months

C. A. Rosales Nieto, M. B. Ferguson, C. A. Macleay, J. R. Briegel, D. A. Wood, G. B. Martin, A. N. Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


We studied the relationships among growth, body composition and reproductive performance in ewe lambs with known phenotypic values for depth of eye muscle (EMD) and fat (FAT) and Australian Sheep Breeding Values for post-weaning live weight (PWT) and depth of eye muscle (PEMD) and fat (PFAT). To detect estrus, vasectomized rams were placed with 190 Merino ewe lambs when on average they were 157 days old. The vasectomized rams were replaced with entire rams when the ewe lambs were, on average, 226 days old. Lambs were weighed every week and blood was sampled on four occasions for assay of ghrelin, leptin and beta-hydroxybutyrate. Almost 90% of the lambs attained puberty during the experiment, at an average live weight of 41.4 kg and average age of 197 days. Ewe lambs with higher values for EMD (P <0.001), FAT (P <0.01), PWT (P <0.001), PEMD (P <0.05) and PFAT (P <0.05) were more likely to achieve puberty by 251 days of age. Thirty-six percent of the lambs conceived and, at the estimated date of conception, the average live weight was 46.9 +/- 0.6 kg and average age was 273 days. Fertility, fecundity and reproductive rate were positively related to PWT (P <0.05) and thus live weight at the start of mating (P <0.001). Reproductive performance was not correlated with blood concentrations of ghrelin, leptin or beta-hydroxybutyrate. Many ewe lambs attained puberty, as detected by vasectomized rams, but then failed to become pregnant after mating with entire rams. Nevertheless, we can conclude that in ewe lambs mated at 8 months of age, higher breeding values for growth, muscle and fat are positively correlated with reproductive performance, although the effects of breeding values and responses to live weight are highly variable. (c) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-435
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2013

Structured keywords

  • WUN


  • Ewe lambs
  • Reproductive performance
  • Phenotypic selection
  • Australian sheep breeding value (ASBV)


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