Multi-trait selection indexes for sustainable UK hill sheep production

J Conington*, SC Bishop, B Grundy, A Waterhouse, Geoff Simm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three selection indexes for the UK hill sheep sector are derived to suit the extremes of hill production systems. These are: (i) intensive, where all surplus lambs not required for breeding are finished for slaughter, (ii) extensive, where all surplus 'store' lambs are sold to other farmers for finishing, and (iii) semi-intensive, which is intermediate between the two extremes, i.e. farms finish some lambs for slaughter and sell others as store lambs. Parameters for 12 breeding goal and index traits were estimated using a total of 3962 lamb records and 5944 ewe lambing records from Scottish Blackface sheep on two Scottish Agricultural College experimental hill farms. The breeding goal comprised carcass, maternal and survival traits. The evaluation of these indexes showed that improvements in maternal traits are possible, along with more modest improvements in carcass quality traits. Responses to selection are expected to be lower for the extensive farm in general, compared with the intensive farm. Evaluations of alternative indexes show that an index using measurements of fat and muscle on ewes rather than on lambs may be more cost-effective to implement in practice, compared with the original index, although this change results in a higher (i.e. undesirable) gain in mature size. Sensitivity analyses showed that in general, the indexes are robust to changes in economic values and to changes in heritability estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-423
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


  • carcass composition
  • maternal effects
  • selection index
  • sheep


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