This thesis examined genetic and phenotypic aspects of production of farmed Red deer in the UK.
Heritabilities for weight traits tended to be moderate to high. Selection on weight at a given age will tend to lead to a correlated increase in weight and all ages and has implications for increased calving difficulty and higher maternal overheads. Animals of Wapiti and Eastern European parentage tended to have higher liveweights than those of British parentage pointing to their possible use as 'terminal' sires. Care is needed when selecting hinds to cross with these stags. Older dams were more likely to have a successful pregnancy and calve earlier. Calving traits tended to have low genetic variation.
A central performance test was set up to improve across herd linkages. It is concluded that in future the test should start earlier and a lower limit on the weight of animals going on test should be set.
The traits that were included in the economic breeding objective for Red deer included number of calves weaned, hind and offspring food consumption, stag calf and hind carcass weight and hind calf liveweight at 15 months. It was concluded that antlercharacteristics should be excluded from the breeding objective as they have no monetary value in the UK deer industry, but they may be included in selection criteria if they can be shown to improve the accuracy of breeding value prediction.
Sources of variation in carcass traits and weight traits were investigated using linear body measurements and photographic techniques. Heights and girths were found to be the best predictors of weight traits. Weight was found to be the best predictor of carcass composition.
Recommendations are made for future research. These include the setting up of cross breeding and selection experiments for more accurate parameter estimation and the heterotic effects of using Wapiti and animals of European parentage. Farmers are encouraged to use artificial insemination and the BDFA and MAFF are advisedto set up a performance recording scheme.