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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)

Abstract

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.

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Keywords

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)

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