Lamb production

Last changed: 06 December 2023

Animal welfare through breeding

Project Manager: Lotta Rydhmer, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU.

Project Coworker: Elisabeth Jonas, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU. 

The aim of the project is, through improvement of the breeding program for Swedish sheep breeds, to contribute to an organic lamb production that is economically, socially, and ecologically sustainable. Calculations done at SLU have shown that the financial result is better in organic than in conventional lamb production and higher profitability can be expected in organic lamb production. A well-organised sheep breeding program adapted to organic farming is a possibility to improve competitiveness in Swedish lamb production.

Organic production puts special demands on the animals such as ability to convert forage, disease resistance, survival, and longevity. In the current genetic evaluation a number of breeding values for important goal traits are calculated but the key traits lamb survival and ewe longevity are not yet included. A total merit index (TMI) weighing the economic, environmental, and ethical importance of the various traits is also missing. A TMI enables producers to work toward common breeding goals and the total genetic gain will be as high as possible.

To find which breeds are best suited for organic production we will study their results for productivity, fertility, lamb survival and ewe longevity in organic and conventional production, respectively, during the last ten years. Importance of herd size, location in the country and season is also illustrated.

We want to improve the current genetic evaluation by developing a basis for a TMI for Swedish sheep. The study includes estimation of genetic parameters for lamb survival and ewe sustainability, calculation of economic weights, and simulation of genetic gain. Data from Elitlamm, owned by the Swedish sheep breeding association, and KRAV will be used.

The purpose is to make it possible to select for functional, effective, and sustainable animals in organic sheep farms. The project is done in collaboration with sheep breeding organizations and organic farmers in Sweden.