The estimation of phenotypic and genetic parameters and the evaluation of selection responses has represented the major activity of sheep geneticists in the past. Breeding objectives were most often defined verbally in a loose manner allowing a considerable amount of scope for various interpretations of what the desired improvement might be. In recent years attention has been increasingly focussed on the precise definition of breeding objectives for sheep from an economic point of view. The approach to the problem has changed from merely identifying traits of economic importance, to formally incorporating them into breeding objectives using selection index theory.
Given the multitude of breeds and the diversity of climates, management and marketing systems under which sheep are run, discussing breeding objectives for sheep on a world-wide basis would be very difficult. Thus, the more modest aim of the present paper will be to review recent advances and to highlight a number of issues which arise when attempting to develop a breeding objective for a particular breed in a given environment. In doing this, I will draw heavily on my experience in Australia, but I trust that many of the concepts put forward will find applications in other situations.
Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume 5. Plenary sessions, , 619–634, 1982
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