Lambing date and lamb production of spring-mated Rambouillet, Dorset and Finnsheep ewes and their F1 crosses.
Mwai, Okeyo A
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The reproductive performance of 255 Rambouillet (R), Dorset (D), Finnsheep (F) and F1 ewes born in 1978-1979 (group I) and 1979-1980 (group II) and managed in a semiconfinement fall/winter lambing system was evaluated through 4 yr of age of all ewes and through 5 yr for a portion of group I ewes. Ewes were with rams from approximately May 1 to late September each year, with a 2-wk break late in July/early August. Traits considered were fertility (ewes lambed/ewes exposed), lambing date, litter size, lamb survivial and 70-d lamb weights. Breeds and crossbred groups differed significantly in lambing date, with DR crossbred ewes earliest and F ewes latest. Repeatabilities for groups I and II were .31 and .22, .24 and .24 and .11 and .07 for lambing date, fertility and litter size, respectively. There was no significant heterosis in lambing date, although DR ewes in both groups I and II were superior to (D + R)/2, by about 1 wk on average. There was significant positive heterosis for fertility and traits of which fertility is a component in FR ewes in group I, but none in group II. The FD ewes showed negative heterosis for litter size, -.23 (P less than .05) for group I and -.09 for group II. The results indicate: F and FD ewes are not well adapted to the Mediterranean climate where this experiment was conducted; there is little, if any, useful heterosis in crosses among these three breeds for lambing date or other reproduction traits and RD and R ewes are most suitable of the groups tested, while late onset of the breeding season limits the usefulness of even 50% Finnsheep ewes for an autumn lambing system in this environment.