This experimental sheep population was established in 1999 at the premises of 3SR partner AGRIS Sardegna for the purpose of aiding the detection of QTL associated with milk production and functional traits. The population was formed by mating animals from the two most numerous dairy breeds from the respective countries, the Lacaune (France) and the Sarda breed (Italy). The first generation of the cross was formed by the mating of 14 elite Lacaune rams to 184 Sarda ewes. Ten sons from each of ten founder sires were then mated to 2,719 ewes to generate 968 backcross females, which included approximately 98 from each of ten families. A further four structured matings were subsequently conducted and all retained ewes had records collected. DNA and records were also collected on more recent descendents from the initial backcross animals.
For the purposes of the 3SR project, genotypes and phenotypes of approximately 2,550 animals will be used in QTL discovery and validation. Whole-genome genotypes will be based on an analysis with a 50K SNP array. Phenotypes will pertain to milk yield and composition, milkability, growth, milk somatic cell count, incidence of mastitis, udder morphology, faecal egg count, ovulation rate and embryo mortality.