Selection is the major tool used by breeders to improve the genetic quality of their livestock. Traditional methods of selection are well proven and useful in improving the economic merit of livestock. The performance of an animal is affected by its genetic quality and by the environment in which it is reared. While environmental improvement is expensive and requires continuous inputs, genetic improvement is cumulative and permanent, provided that selection is maintained. To select an animal on its genetic merit account must be taken of the environmental effects on its performance. Comparisons between the performance of animals on different farms or in different years are not valid unless they have genetic material in common. The speed at which genetic improvement is passed on to the rest of a population is affected by the variation and heritability of the traits being selected, the selection intensity and the generation interval. The deer population in the United Kingdom has a high degree of variation for important traits but the selection intensity is low and the generation intervals are larger than in other farmed species. Central performance testing, group breeding schemes and the use of artificial insemination are tools which will be important in the genetic improvement of farmed deer.
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