Variance components for direct and maternal effects on body weights of Katahdin lambs
Burke, J. M.
Notter, D. R.
Morgan, J. L. M.
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The aim of this study was to estimate genetic parameters for BW in Katahdin lambs. Six animal models were used to study direct and maternal effects on birth weight (BWT), weaning weight (WWT), and postweaning weight (PWWT) using 41,066 BWT, 33,980 WWT, and 22,793 PWWT records collected over 17 yr in 100 flocks. Models included fixed effects of management group, dam age, type of birth (for BWT) or birth and rearing (for WWT and PWWT), and lamb age at weighing (fitted as a covariate for WWT and PWWT; all P < 0.05). Variance components for random effects were estimated in sequentially more complex models and tested for significance with likelihood-ratio tests. A model that fitted only an additive animal effect overestimated additive variance for all BW, resulting in larger estimates of direct heritability than models that included maternal effects. Maternal effects explained variation (P < 0.05) in all BW. Heritability estimates for optimal models were 0.15 +/- 0.01 for BWT, 0.18 +/- 0.02 for WWT, and 0.20 +/- 0.02 for PWWT. Estimates of maternal heritabilities were 0.14 for BWT, 0.10 for WWT, and 0.06 for PWWT, with SE = 0.01. Permanent environmental maternal effects explained 4 to 6% (+/- 1%) of total phenotypic variances for these BW. Litter effects included temporary environmental effects common to littermates and a proportion of the dominance genetic variance and accounted for 16 to 19% (+/- 1%) of phenotypic variance. Correlations between additive direct and maternal genetic effects were -0.14 for BWT, -0.23 for WWT, and -0.04 for PWWT but differed from 0 (P < 0.05) only for WWT. The total heritability predicted the total response in direct and maternal genetic effects from mass selection and was 0.23 for BWT, 0.20 for WWT, and 0.23 for PWWT. Direct and maternal additive, maternal permanent environmental, residual, and phenotypic correlations between BWT and WWT were 0.53 +/- 0.05, 0.58 +/- 0.06, 0.51 +/- 0.06, 0.39 +/- 0.01, and 0.44 +/- 0.01, respectively; those between BWT and PWWT were 0.45 +/- 0.06, 0.58 +/- 0.08, 0.36 +/- 0.08, 0.33 +/- 0.01, and 0.37 +/- 0.01 respectively; and those between WWT and PWWT were 0.85, 0.99, 0.92, 0.77, and 0.81, respectively, with SE = 0.02. Therefore, both direct and maternal effects had an important impact on BW in Katahdin lambs. Models that included both additive and permanent environmental maternal effects as well as a temporary environmental litter effect should result in more accurate estimates of breeding values and better selection decisions.