Heritability and genetic parameters for semen traits in Australian sheep

Marnie Hodge, Sally J. Rindfleish, Sara Las Heras-Saldana De, Cyril Stephen, Sam Pant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Semen characteristics including volume, gross motility, spermatozoal concentration, and percent post-thaw motility are routinely assessed to determine the quality and quantity of an ejaculate prior to use in artificial breeding programs. Currently, artificial breeding programs in sheep place relatively little emphasis on ram-side factors, such as the fertilising potential of an ejaculate, which may contribute to variability in conception outcomes. Estimating genetic parameters for ejaculate quality and quantity traits could provide insights into whether selective breeding can be used to improve such ram-side traits, improving ovine reproductive performance and farm profitability. Therefore, in this study, a total of 11,470 ejaculate records, including data for ejaculate volume, gross motility, spermatozoal concentration, and percent post-thaw motility, collected over a 20-year period was used to estimate genetic parameters in sheep. Univariate and bivariate mixed model analysis was performed including a variety of fixed effects such as breed, age at collection, centre of collection, collection number, season of collection, and method of collection; and the permanent environmental effects associated with each ram, stud and year of collection, and the breeding value of rams included as random effects. The heritability for ejaculate volume, gross motility, concentration, and percent post-thaw motility was estimated to be 0.161, 0.170, 0.089, and 0.081. Repeatability estimates were moderate, ranging between 0.4126 and 0.5265. Overall, results indicate that semen traits are lowly heritable and moderately repeatable, indicating that these traits are significantly influenced by environmental variables.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimals
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2022

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