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© The Author(s) 2018. Reliance on anthelmintic drugs to control internal parasites in sheep is no longer sustainable because of the development of resistance to these drugs in parasite populations. Genetic selection may offer an alternative long-term solution, as differences in parasite resistance exist both within and among sheep breeds. However, selection for parasite resistance may have correlated effects on other production traits. The objectives of this study were to estimate genetic parameters for weaning (WFEC) and postweaning (PWFEC) fecal egg counts (FEC) and assess their relationship with birth (BWT), weaning (WWT), and postweaning (PWWT) BW in Katahdin lambs. The study used WFEC (n = 2,537), PWFEC (n = 3.421), BWT (n = 12,869), WWT (n = 10,961), and PWWT (n = 7,812) from 12,869 lambs measured between 2003 and 2015 in 13 flocks enrolled in the U.S. National Sheep Improvement Program. Animal and sire models were fitted to the data using the ASReml statistical package. Records were corrected for fixed effects of dam age, joint effect of type of birth and rearing, and management group (defined by joint effects of flock, sex, and birth year and season); lamb age in days at each measurement time was fitted as a covari-ate. Maternal additive and maternal permanent environmental effects were not significant (P > 0.05), but litter effects influenced (P < 0.01) both WFEC and PWFEC. Heritability estimates ranged from 0.18 to 0.26 for WFEC and 0.23 to 0.46 for PWFEC, depending on the model used. Heritability estimates from sire models were higher than estimates from animal models. Direct additive, litter, residual, and phenotypic correlations between WFEC and PWFEC were 0.82, 0.25, 0.15, and 0.29, respectively. Bivariate analyses revealed low to moderate correlations between BW and FEC. Moderate heritabilities for FEC in this study indicated that genetic progress for this trait can be achieved in Katahdin lambs and that selection for low FEC should have little or no effect on BW.

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Journal of Animal Science

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