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Farm Animal Practice
Genetic evaluation and selection of purebred sheep in the UK
  1. Duncan Pullar

    Duncan Pullar graduated from Nottingham with a BSc in agriculture in 1983, and then went on to gain a PhD at Reading for investigations on early pregnancy in sheep. In 1988, he joined ADAS, at High Mowthorpe, North Yorkshire, where he spent 10 years working on beef cattle experiments, including BSE maternal transmission studies. In 1998, he joined the Meat and Livestock Commission, where he is Beef and Sheep Technology Manager. He has responsihility for the beef and sheep research portfolio, which includes a large proportion of breeding work.


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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