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The relationship between arena behaviour and lamb rearing ability

Reproductive wastage is a major limiting factor in the Australian sheep industry and lamb mortality has been shown to be a major component of this. While management options are available, they incur an annual cost and genetic selection is a preferred option. However, reproductive rate is made up of many components and these are of low heritability, difficult to measure and limited to one or other of the sexes. However, the behaviour of sheep in an arena test has shown promise as an indirect selection criterion. In a study of sheep from the Trangie Fertility Flock, selected for the ability of its ewes to rear their lambs to weaning and an unselected flock, the Trangie Random Flock, the sheep from the Fertility Flock moved around the arena and bleated less than their Random Flock counterparts. The arena test was devised so as to assess the attraction of the test animal to a group of sheep at the end of the arena and the repulsion of a human sitting in front of this group of sheep. The differences between the two flocks were interpreted as the greater ability of the Fertility Flock ewes to tolerate social isolation, a possibly desirable trait on the birthsite. In this project, we measured the arena behaviour of ewes from several commercial and research flocks with lifetime reproductive performance measurements. We were anticipating that the ewes with the greater reproductive success would move around the arena and bleat less than ewes with lower reproductive success. However, in only one of the flocks was there a significant relationship between arena behaviour and reproductive performance and, in this case, the arena criterion was closest approach to the human in the arena.

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2.4MB 18/09/2015

This page was last updated on 21/07/2017

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