Skip to main content Accessibility help

An effective rotational mating scheme for inbreeding reduction in captive populations illustrated by the rare sheep breed Kempisch Heideschaap

  • J. J. Windig (a1) and L. Kaal (a1)


Within breeds and other captive populations, the risk of high inbreeding rates and loss of diversity can be high within (small) herds or subpopulations. When exchange of animals between different subpopulations is organised according to a rotational mating scheme, inbreeding rates can be restricted. Two such schemes, a breeding circle and a maximum avoidance of inbreeding scheme, are compared. In a breeding circle, flocks are organised in a circle where each flock serves as a donor flock for another flock, and the same donor–recipient combination is used in each breeding season. In the maximum inbreeding avoidance scheme, donor–recipient combinations change each year so that the use of the same combination is postponed as long as possible. Data from the Kempisch Heideschaap were used with computer simulations to determine the long-term effects of different breeding schemes. Without exchanging rams between flocks, high inbreeding rates (>1.5% per year) occurred. Both rotational mating schemes reduced inbreeding rates to on average 0.16% per year and variation across flocks in inbreeding rates, caused by differences in flock size, almost disappeared. Inbreeding rates with maximum inbreeding avoidance were more variable than with a breeding circle. Moreover, a breeding circle is easier to implement and operate. Breeding circles are thus efficient and flexible and can also be efficient for other captive populations, such as zoo populations of endangered wild species.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Alderson, L 1990. The relevance of genetic improvement programmes within a policy for genetic conservation. In Genetic conservation of domestic livestock (ed. L Alderson), p. 242. CAB International, Oxon.
Boakes, EH, Wang, J, Amos, W 2007. An investigation of inbreeding depression and purging in captive pedigreed populations. Heredity 98, 172182.
Caballero, A, Santiago, E, Toro, MA 1996. Systems of mating to reduce inbreeding in selected populations. Animal Science 62, 431442.
Chevalet, C, De Rochambeau, H 1985. Predicting the genetic drift in small populations. Livestock Production Science 13, 207218.
De Rochambeau, H, Chevalet, C 1985. Minimisation des coefficients de consanguinité moyens dans les petites populations d’animaux domestiques [Minimizing inbreeding rates in small populations of domestic species]. Genetics Selection Evolution 17, 459480.
Falconer, DS, Mackay, TFC 1996. Introduction to quantitative genetics. Longman Group, Harlow.
Farid, A, Makarechian, M, Strobeck, C 1987. Inbreeding under a cyclical mating system. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 73, 506515.
Food and Agriculture Organization 1998. Secondary guidelines for the management of small populations at risk. FAO, Rome, Italy.
Goyache, F, Gutierrez, JP, Fernandez, I, Gomez, E, Alvarez, I, Diez, J, Royo, LJ 2003. Using pedigree information to monitor genetic variability of endangered populations: the Xalda sheep breed of Asturias as an example. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 120, 95105.
Holt, M, Meuwissen, T, Vangen, O 2005. The effect of fast created inbreeding on litter size and body weights in mice. Genetics Selection Evolution 37, 523537.
Honda, T, Nomura, T, Mukai, F 2004. Reduction of inbreeding in commercial females by rotational mating with several sire lines. Genetics Selection Evolution 36, 509526.
Kimura, M, Crow, JF 1963. On the maximum avoidance of inbreeding. Genetical Research 4, 399415.
Lewis, RM, Simm, G 2000. Selection strategies in sire referencing schemes in sheep. Livestock Production Science 67, 129141.
Meuwissen, THE 1997. Maximizing the response of selection with a predefined rate of inbreeding. Journal of Animal Science 75, 934940.
Meuwissen, THE, Woolliams, JA 1994. Effective sizes of livestock populations to prevent a decline in fitness. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 89, 10191026.
Montgomery, ME, Ballou, JD, Nurthen, RK, England, PR, Briscoe, DA, Frankham, R 1997. Minimizing kinship in captive breeding programs. Zoo Biology 16, 377389.
Oldenbroek, K 2007. Utilisation and conservation of farm animal genetic resources. Wageningen Academic publishers, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Oliehoek, PA, Windig, JJ, van Arendonk, JAM, Bijma, P 2006. Estimating relatedness between individuals in general populations with a focus on their use in conservation programs. Genetics 173, 483496.
Roden, JA 1996. A comparison of alternative nucleus breeding systems and a sire referencing scheme for sheep improvement. Animal Science 62, 265270.
Sanchez, L, Bijma, P, Woolliams, JA 2003. Minimizing inbreeding by managing genetic contributions across generations. Genetics 164, 15891595.
Vellema, P 2002. Verplichte inzet ARR/ARR-rammen vanaf 1 juli 2004. Het Schaap 3, 1617.
Windig, JJ, Eding, H, Moll, L, Kaal, L 2004. Effects on inbreeding of different strategies aimed at eliminating scrapie sensitivity alleles in rare sheep breeds in The Netherlands. Animal Science 79, 1120.
Windig, JJ, Meuleman, H, Kaal, L 2007. Selection for scrapie resistance and simultaneous restriction of inbreeding in the rare sheep breed “Mergellander”. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 78, 161171.
Woolliams, JA 2007. Genetic contributions and inbreeding. In Utilisation and conservation of farm animal genetic resources (ed. K Oldenbroek), pp. 147165. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Woolliams, JA, Bijma, P 2000. Predicting rates of inbreeding: in populations undergoing selection. Genetics 154, 18511864.
Woolliams, JA, Bijma, P, Villanueva, B 1999. Expected genetic contributions and their impact on gene flow and genetic gain. Genetics 153, 10091020.
Wright, S 1921. Systems of mating. Genetics 6, 111178.
Wright, S 1938. Size of populations and breeding structure in relation to evolution. Science 87, 430431.


An effective rotational mating scheme for inbreeding reduction in captive populations illustrated by the rare sheep breed Kempisch Heideschaap

  • J. J. Windig (a1) and L. Kaal (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed