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TDK conference 2014

Evaluation of the growing performance of rare breed sheep
Marley Ciarán - year 5
SZIU Faculty of Veterinary Science, Institute for Animal Breeding, Nutrition and Laboratory Animal Science, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Supervisor: Dr. Kata Annus


The Hungarian Tsigai is an old, independent, long-tailed native sheep breed, originating in Asia Minor. The breed appeared in Hungary at the end of 18th century. After the end of 19th century, significant breeding programs diminished, and the breed lost its growing ascendancy.

The breed origin of the Scottish Blackface has been lost in time, but most likely have originated from the horned hill breed sheep. Over the years, the farmers recognised the breeds ability to survive the rough environment.

The main objective of this study is to evaluate and analyse the weaning weight and its changes over time of these two traditional sheep breeds.

We received the Tsigai data from the Hungarian Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders (2000-2013, n=2809) and Scottish Blackface data from farms in the West of Ireland (2010-2013, n=747). We took into consideration the animals keeping niche, geographical and environmental locations as well.

At first we adjusted the weaning weight to 60 days (WW60), so we could compare the lambs from the different weaning systems. We calculated the average daily gain during the suckling period. We used general linear modell (GLM, weaning age as a covariant) to compare the results according to the birth type, the gender, and the keeping place, including the breed impact.

The WW60 was 21.6 kg in male lambs (n=545), and 20.0 kg in female lambs (n=2856). This trait was 21.7 kg by the single lambs (n=1670), and 19.8 kg in the multiple births(n=1731). These results were statistically significant (p<0.001). During the evaluation of the weaning weight according to the keeping environment we also found differences. The two Hungarian lowland niche showed similarity (p=0.886): the animals kept in poorer meadow were 21.9 kg, while on the richer meadow they were 22.1 kg. In Ireland, the average weaning weight was 19.8 kg, while the lambs in the Hungarian mountainous keeping place were 19.2 kg, both significantly differing from the previous results (p<0.001). From the daily gain results we found quite similar tendencies.

Regarding the alteration of the live weight over a period of time it became obvious that the Tsigai sheep kept in lowland condition showed a significant increase in the WW60. A true maintenance was observed in the Scottish Blackface in the past 3 years showing the breeders intention to maintain the breed in its traditional performance. Our study revealed a slight decrease in the weaning weight of the Tsigai lambs in the mountain niche which indicates the decision of the breeders to conserve the original traits of this breed.

The study has looked at the ability of the Tsigai and the Scottish Blackface to generate liveweight from pastures that may well have been left ungrazed and un-utilized due to poor quality. Our intention is to show that these breeds deserve consideration based on their performances on pasture.

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