Summary. A high and a low response line in sheep were selected on the basis of the mean concentration of LH in 10-week-old Finn–Dorset ram lambs after an i.v. injection of 5 μg GnRH. After 8 male generations the mean LH response of the high line was more than 5-fold that of the low line and the heritability of the selected trait was estimated at 0·44 ± 0·015. Highly significant line differences in mean LH response to GnRH were also found in males at 20 weeks of age and females at 10 and 20 weeks of age and the genetic correlations between the four LH response traits appear to be close to unity. Large line differences in the mean FSH response to GnRH were also found in both males and females at 10 and 20 weeks of age. Selection had little effect on the physical characteristics of lambs. High-response line ewes entering their first breeding season at about 7 months of age showed oestrus earlier in the season and had higher ovulation rates and numbers of lambs born per ewe lambing than did low-response line ewes. In the second breeding season, at about 19 months of age, the only line difference was a higher ovulation rate early in the breeding season in high-line ewes. It is suggested that these changes may be mediated by a more rapid response in high-line ewes to increased GnRH stimulation at puberty or at the beginning of the breeding season.
Keywords: genetic selection; LH release; GnRH; sheep