Non-genetic sources of variation of milk production and reproduction and interactions between both classes of traits in Sicilo-Sarde dairy sheep
This work aimed to study the sources of variation in productive and reproductive traits of the dairy Sicilo-Sarde ewes and to further investigate the interaction between both classes of traits. After edits, a database containing 5935 lactation records collected during 6 successive years in eight dairy flocks in the North of Tunisia was used. Total milked milk (TMM) in the milking-only period was retained as productive trait. The interval from the start of the mating period to the subsequent lambing (IML) and the lambing status (LS) were designed as reproductive traits. Sicilo-Sarde ewes had an average TMM of 60.93 l (±44.12) during 132.8 days (±46.6) after a suckling period of 100.4 days (±24.9). Average IML was 165.7 days. In a first step, the major factors influencing milk production and reproductive traits were determined. The significant sources of variation identified for TMM were: flock, month of lambing, year of lambing, parity, suckling length, litter size and milking-only length. Flock×month of the start of the mating period, parity, year of mating and litter size were identified as significant factors of variation for IML, while flock×month of the start of the mating period, parity and year of mating were identified as significant sources of variation for LS. In a second step, variance components were estimated using a three traits threshold mixed model, which combined LS as categorical trait and TMM and IML as continuous traits. Repeatability estimates were 0.21 (±0.03) for TMM, 0.09 (±0.02) for IML, and 0.10 (±0.05) for LS. Moreover, TMM and IML were found to be favorably associated for the flock× year of lambing effect (−0.45±0.18) but unfavorably associated for the animal effect (0.20±0.09).