Many farmers in New Zealand have moved towards using composite-breed sheep flocks to increase the meat production and fecundity of their stock. We aimed to determine whether flocks with a wider genetic base had greater between and within-fleece variation than single-breed flocks. Wool from seventeen body sites of sheep from five flocks of diverse genetic background (Romney, Coopworth, and crosses with Texel, Finnish Landrace and East Friesian breed lines) were compared. Both mean fibre diameter and mean fibre curvature differed between flocks (P <0.001), and across the body (P <0.01). While fibre diameter was more consistent, fibre curvature was more variable across the finer fleeces of flocks with some Finnish Landrace influence. Wool was shorter in Texel crosses, resulting in more consistent length across body sites. Our data suggests that composite-breed sheep exhibit increased within-fleece variation of some wool traits and decreased variation of others. Of most significance was that the extent of wool variation across body sites varied considerably between sheep, regardless of their genotype. In general, there was little association between wool traits with respect to this across-fleece uniformity. Fleece uniformity can be assessed by sampling across the anterior-posterior axis. Selection of stock with more uniform fleeces for specific traits may aid the production of wool better specified to satisfy differentiated niche markets.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 69, Christchurch, 90-95, 2009
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