Heritability of phenotypic udder traits to improve resilience to mastitis in Texel ewes

Ron E. Crump, S. Cooper, E. M. Smith, C. Grant, Laura E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


There are no estimates of the heritability of phenotypic udder traits in suckler sheep, which produce meat lambs, and whether these are associated with resilience to mastitis. Mastitis is a common disease which damages the mammary gland and reduces productivity. The aims of this study were to investigate the feasibility of collecting udder phenotypes, their heritability and their association with mastitis in suckler ewes. Udder and teat conformation, teat lesions, intramammary masses (IMM) and litter size were recorded from 10 Texel flocks in Great Britain between 2012 and 2014; 968 records were collected. Pedigree data were obtained from an online pedigree recording system. Univariate quantitative genetic parameters were estimated using animal and sire models. Linear mixed models were used to analyse continuous traits and generalised linear mixed models were used to analyse binary traits. Continuous traits had higher heritabilities than binary with teat placement and teat length heritability (h2) highest at 0.35 (SD 0.04) and 0.42 (SD 0.04), respectively. Udder width, drop and separation heritabilities were lower and varied with udder volume. The heritabilities of IMM and teat lesions (sire model) were 0.18 (SD 0.12) and 0.17 (SD 0.11), respectively. All heritabilities were sufficiently high to be in a selection programme to increase resilience to mastitis in the population of Texel sheep. Further studies are required to investigate genetic relationships between traits and to determine whether udder traits predict IMM, and the potential benefits from including traits in a selection programme to increase resilience to chronic mastitis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1570-1575
Issue number8
Early online date21 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • genetics
  • intramammary infection
  • meat sheep
  • pedigree
  • selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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