WHILE genetic improvement is just one of a number of methods available to sheep producers to enhance the performance of their animals, it has the great advantage of being permanent, cumulative, sustainable and cost-effective. This article outlines the different methods of genetic improvement that have been used in the UK over the past 30 years; some tried-and-tested strategies have changed little, such as the stratified system of crossbreeding which is employed to maximise heterosis (hybrid vigour) and breed complementarity, but other breed improvement techniques have changed a great deal, particularly with the advent of powerful computers and sophisticated software. The article goes on to discuss in more detail the processes involved in estimating an animal's breeding value, which form the basis of 'Sheepbreeder', a genetic evaluation scheme for the UK sheep industry.
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