Analysis of litter size and days to lambing in the Ripollesa ewe. I. Comparison of models with linear and threshold approaches

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The analysis focused on model fitting of 2 ewe reproductive traits, litter size, and days to lambing (interval between the introduction of the ram into the nock and the subsequent parturition of the ewes). The experimental data set of the Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona flock was used, including 1,598 records of litter size and 1,699 records of days to lambing from 376 Ripollesa ewes between 1986 and 2005. Univariate and bivariate models were considered as beginning points with linear or threshold approximation for litter size. Model fitting was evaluated in terms of goodness-of-fit and predictive ability, using the mean square error and the correlation between phenotypic and predicted records (ρy,ŷ) as reference parameters. The bivariate model was preferable for both variables, minimizing mean square error and maximizing ρy,ŷ. A threshold approximation for litter size was preferable over a linear approximation. Models were also compared with a simulation study, comparing the correlation coefficient between simulated and predicted breeding values (ρa,â). The bivariate threshold model was favored, with a ρy,ŷof 0.677 and 0.834 for litter size and days to lambing, respectively. Correlation coefficients between simulated and predicted breeding values in the bivariate linear model were reduced slightly to 0.651 and 0.831, respectively, and they were lowest with linear univariate models (0.642 and 0.802). Although the bivariate models for ewe litter size and days to lambing were more accurate than the univariate models, the threshold approaches showed a greater advantage under the bivariate model. For the purpose of genetic evaluation of litter size in sheep, use of the threshold-linear model seems justified. In the Ripollesa breed, the evaluation of litter size can benefit from recording birth weight. © 2007 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-624
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Days to lambing
  • Goodness-of-fit
  • Litter size
  • Predictive ability
  • Ripollesa breed


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