Analysis of lambing distribution in the Ripollesa sheep breed. I. Development and comparison of circular von Mises models

J. Casellas, M. Martín De Hijas-Villalba, S. Id-Lahoucine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

2 Citations (Scopus)


© The Animal Consortium 2019. Circular data originates in a wide range of scientific fields and can be analyzed on the basis of directional statistics and special distributions wrapped around the circumference. However, both propensity to transform non-linear to linear data and complexity of directional statistics limited the generalization of the circular paradigm in the animal breeding framework, among others. Here, we generalized a circular mixed (CM) model within the context of Bayesian inference. Three different parametrizations with different hierarchical structures were developed on basis of the von Mises distribution; moreover, both goodness of fit and predictive ability from each parametrization were compared through the analyses of 110 116 lambing distribution records collected from Ripollesa sheep herds between 1976 and 2017. The naive circular (NC) model only accounted for population mean and homogeneous circular variance, and reached the lowest goodness-of-fit and predictive ability. The CM model assumed a hierarchical structure for the population mean by accounting for systematic (ewe age and lambing interval) and permanent environmental sources of variation (flock-year-season and ewe). This improved goodness of fit by reducing both the deviance information criterion (DIC;-2520 units) and the mean square error (MSE;-12.4%) between simulated and predicted lambing data when compared against the NC model. Finally, the last parametrization expanded CM model by also assuming a hierarchical structure with systematic and permanent environmental factors for the variance parameter of the von Mises distribution (i.e. circular canalization (CC) model). This last model reached the best goodness of fit to lambing distribution data with a DIC estimate 5425 units lower than the one for NC model (MSE reduced 13.2%). The same pattern revealed when models were compared in terms of predictive ability. The superiority revealed by CC model emphasized the relevance of heteroskedasticity for the analysis of lambing distribution in the Ripollesa breed, and suggested potential applications for the sheep industry, even genetic selection for canalization. The development of CM models on the basis of the von Mises distribution has allowed to integrate flexible hierarchical structures accounting for different sources of variation and affecting both mean and dispersion terms. This must be viewed as a useful statistical tool with multiple applications in a wide range of research fields, as well as the livestock industry. The next mandatory step should be the inclusion of genetic terms in the hierarchical structure of the models in order to evaluate their potential contribution to current selection programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2133-2139
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • circular data
  • lambing distribution
  • mixed model
  • model fit
  • von Mises


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