Sheep research at ICARDA

August 31, 2011 at 6:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Awassi program: breeding animals are selected using a combination of quantitative indices and visual scoring

ICARDA’s livestock research includes a breed improvement program for Awassi sheep, the dominant sheep breed in the Middle East, Turkey and elsewhere. The aim is to develop ‘dual-purpose’ animals that give high yields of meat as well as milk, by selecting breeding animals with specific traits. The program also aims to develop and standardize these methodologies for use by researchers in other countries. In July and August, researchers at ICARDA’s Sheep Unit selected the best animals from the flock, under different categories: mature ewes, mature rams, and young (6 months) lambs of both sexes.

Breeding animals were selected based on milk yield, growth and reproductive traits. Lambs were selected based on the dam’s milk yield, the sire’s ‘breeding value’ and the lamb’s own growth performance. Each lamb was then evaluated for morphological characteristics such as body size and frame, body conformation, color, and defects. Ninety lambs (70 females, 20 males) were selected from 224 candidates. The male lambs will go through further rounds of selection at yearling and 18 month stages to finally select the four best rams, which will sire the next generation.

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