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Extreme weather conditions such as cold stress influence the productivity and survivability of beef cattle raised on pasture. The objective of this study was to identify and evaluate the extent of the impact of genotype by environment interaction due to cold stress on birth weight (BW) and weaning weight (WW) in a composite beef cattle population. The effect of cold stress was modelled as the accumulation of total cold load (TCL) calculated using the Comprehensive Climate Index units, considering three TCL classes defined based on temperature: less than −5°C (TCL5), −15°C (TCL15) and −25°C (TCL25). A total of 4221 and 4217 records for BW and WW, respectively, were used from a composite beef cattle population (50% Red Angus, 25% Charolais and 25% Tarentaise) between 2002 and 2015. For both BW and WW, a univariate model (ignoring cold stress) and a reaction norm model were implemented. As cold load increased, the direct heritability slightly increased in both BW and WW for TCL5 class; however, this heritability remained consistent across the cold load of TCL25 class. In contrast, the maternal heritability of BW was constant with cold load increase in all TCL classes, although a slight increase of maternal heritability was observed for TCL5 and TCL15. The direct and maternal genetic correlation for BW and maternal genetic correlation for WW across different cold loads between all TCL classes were high (r > 0.99), whereas the lowest direct genetic correlations observed for WW were 0.88 for TCL5 and 0.85 for TCL15. The Spearman rank correlation between the estimated breeding value of top bulls (n = 79) using univariate and reaction norm models across TCL classes showed some re-ranking in direct and maternal effects for both BW and WW particularly for TCL5 and TCL15. In general, cold stress did not have a big impact on direct and maternal genetic effects of BW and WW.
Combining different swine populations in genomic prediction can be an important tool, leading to an increased accuracy of genomic prediction using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip data compared with within-population genomic. However, the expected higher accuracy of multi-population genomic prediction has not been realized. This may be due to an inconsistent linkage disequilibrium (LD) between SNPs and quantitative trait loci (QTL) across populations, and the weak genetic relationships across populations. In this study, we determined the impact of different genomic relationship matrices, SNP density and pre-selected variants on prediction accuracy using a combined Yorkshire pig population. Our objective was to provide useful strategies for improving the accuracy of genomic prediction within a combined population. Results showed that the accuracy of genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) using imputed whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data in the combined population was always higher than that within populations. Furthermore, the use of imputed WGS data always resulted in a higher accuracy of GBLUP than the use of 80K chip data for the combined population. Additionally, the accuracy of GBLUP with a non-linear genomic relationship matrix was markedly increased (0.87% to 15.17% for 80K chip data, and 0.43% to 4.01% for imputed WGS data) compared with that obtained with a linear genomic relationship matrix, except for the prediction of XD population in the combined population using imputed WGS data. More importantly, the application of pre-selected variants based on fixation index (Fst) scores improved the accuracy of multi-population genomic prediction, especially for 80K chip data. For BLUP|GA (BLUP approach given the genetic architecture), the use of a linear method with an appropriate weight to build a weight-relatedness matrix led to a higher prediction accuracy compared with the use of only pre-selected SNPs for genomic evaluations, especially for the total number of piglets born. However, for the non-linear method, BLUP|GA showed only a small increase or even a decrease in prediction accuracy compared with the use of only pre-selected SNPs. Overall, the best genomic evaluation strategy for reproduction-related traits for a combined population was found to be GBLUP performed with a non-linear genomic relationship matrix using variants pre-selected from the 80K chip data based on Fst scores.
Inclusion of feed efficiency traits into the dairy cattle breeding programmes will require considering early lactation energy status to avoid deterioration in health and fertility of dairy cows. In this regard, energy status indicator (ESI) traits, for example, blood metabolites or milk fatty acids (FAs), are of interest. These indicators can be predicted from routine milk samples by mid-IR reflectance spectroscopy (MIR). In this study, we estimated genetic variation in ESI traits and their genetic correlation with female fertility in early lactation. The data consisted of 37 424 primiparous Nordic Red Dairy cows with milk test-day records between 8 and 91 days in milk (DIM). Routine test-day milk samples were analysed by MIR using previously developed calibration equations for blood plasma non-esterified FA (NEFA), milk FAs, milk beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and milk acetone concentrations. Six ESI traits were considered and included: plasma NEFA concentration (mmol/l) either predicted by multiple linear regression including DIM, milk fat to protein ratio (FPR) and FAs C10:0, C14:0, C18:1 cis-9, C14:0 * C18:1 cis-9 (NEFAFA) or directly from milk MIR spectra (NEFAMIR), C18:1 cis-9 (g/100 ml milk), FPR, BHB (mmol/l milk) and acetone (mmol/l milk). The interval from calving to first insemination (ICF) was considered as the fertility trait. Data were analysed using linear mixed models. Heritability estimates varied during the first three lactation months from 0.13 to 0.19, 0.10 to 0.17, 0.09 to 0.14, 0.07 to 0.10, 0.13 to 0.17 and 0.13 to 0.18 for NEFAMIR, NEFAFA, C18:1 cis-9, FPR, milk BHB and acetone, respectively. Genetic correlations between all ESI traits and ICF were from 0.18 to 0.40 in the first lactation period (8 to 35 DIM), in general somewhat lower (0.03 to 0.43) in the second period (36 to 63 DIM) and decreased clearly (−0.02 to 0.19) in the third period (64 to 91 DIM). Our results indicate that genetic variation in energy status of cows in early lactation can be determined using MIR-predicted indicators. In addition, the markedly lower genetic correlation between ESI traits and fertility in the third lactation month indicated that energy status should be determined from the first test-day milk samples during the first 2 months of lactation.
The net benefit from investing in any technology is a function of the cost of implementation and the expected return in revenue. The objective of the present study was to quantify, using deterministic equations, the net monetary benefit from investing in genotyping of commercial females. Three case studies were presented reflecting dairy cows, beef cows and ewes based on Irish population parameters; sensitivity analyses were also performed. Parameters considered in the sensitivity analyses included the accuracy of genomic evaluations, replacement rate, proportion of female selection candidates retained as replacements, the cost of genotyping, the sire parentage error rate and the age of the female when it first gave birth. Results were presented as an annualised monetary net benefit over the lifetime of an individual, after discounting for the timing of expressions. In the base scenarios, the net benefit was greatest for dairy, followed by beef and then sheep. The net benefit improved as the reliability of the genomic evaluations improved and, in fact, a negative net benefit of genotyping was less frequent when the reliability of the genomic evaluations was high. The impact of a 10% point increase in genomic reliability was, however, greatest in sheep, followed by beef and then dairy. The net benefit of genotyping female selection candidates reduced as replacement rate increased. As genotyping costs increased, the net benefit reduced irrespective of the percentage of selection candidates kept, the replacement rate or even the population considered. Nonetheless, the association between the genotyping cost and the net benefit of genotyping differed by the percentage of selection candidates kept. Across all replacement rates evaluated, retaining 25% of the selection candidates resulted in the greatest net benefit when genotyping cost was low but the lowest net benefit when genotyping cost was high. Genotyping breakeven cost was non-linearly associated with the percentage of selection candidates retained, reaching a maximum when 50% of selection candidates were retained, irrespective of replacement rate, genomic reliability or the population. The genotyping breakeven cost was also non-linearly associated with replacement rate. The approaches outlined within provide the back-end framework for a decision support tool to quantify the net benefit of genotyping, once parameterised by the relevant population metrics.
Large ham weight losses (WL) in dry-curing are undesired as they lead to a loss of marketable product and penalise the quality of the dry-cured ham. The availability of early predictions of WL may ease the adaptation of the dry-curing process to the characteristics of the thighs and increase the effectiveness of selective breeding in enhancing WL. Aims of this study were (i) to develop Bayesian and Random Forests (RFs) regression models for the prediction of ham WL during dry-curing using on-site infrared spectra of raw ham subcutaneous fat, carcass and raw ham traits as predictors and (ii) to estimate genetic parameters for WL and their predictions (P-WL). Visible-near infrared spectra were collected on the transversal section of the subcutaneous fat of raw hams. Carcass traits were carcass weight, carcass backfat depth, lean meat content and weight of raw hams. Raw ham traits included measures of ham subcutaneous fat depth and linear scores for round shape, subcutaneous fat thickness and marbling of the visible muscles of the thigh. Measures of WL were available for 1672 hams. The best prediction accuracies were those of a Bayesian regression model including the average spectrum, carcass and raw ham traits, with R2 values in validation of 0.46, 0.55 and 0.62, for WL at end of salting (23 days), resting (90 days) and curing (12 months), respectively. When WL at salting was used as an additional predictor of total WL, the R2 in validation was 0.67. Bayesian regressions were more accurate than RFs models in predicting all the investigated traits. Restricted maximum likelihood (REML) estimates of genetic parameters for WL and P-WL at the end of curing were estimated through a bivariate animal model including 1672 measures of WL and 8819 P-WL records. Results evidenced that the traits are heritable (h2 ± SE was 0.27 ± 0.04 for WL and 0.39 ± 0.04 for P-WL), and the additive genetic correlation is positive and high (ra = 0.88 ± 0.03). Prediction accuracy of ham WL is high enough to envisage a future use of prediction models in identifying batches of hams requiring an adaptation of the processing conditions to optimise results of the manufacturing process. The positive and high genetic correlation detected between WL and P-WL at the end of dry-curing, as well as the estimated heritability for P-WL, suggests that P-WL can be successfully used as an indicator trait of the measured WL in pig breeding programs.
The objectives of this study were to analyse the differences in the genetic determination of functional longevity in five Spanish lines of rabbits and to check how different systematic factors might affect this genetic determination. Four of the lines were maternal (lines A, V, H and LP), these lines were established selecting base generation animals according to different criteria, but in the subsequent generations all of them were selected for litter size at weaning. The other is the paternal line R, this line was constituted by selecting animals with an outstanding daily growth rate. The trait analysed, length of productive life, was the time in days between the date of the first positive pregnancy test and the date of culling or death of a doe. Four models extended from the Cox proportional hazard model were used to analyse data of each line separately and jointly. The complete model (Model 1) included the fixed effect of year-season (YS) combination, positive palpation order (OPP), that is, reproductive cycle, physiological status of the doe (PS) at service and number of kits born alive (NBA) in each kindling as time-dependent factors. The inbreeding coefficient was fitted as a continuous covariate and the animal’s additive genetic effect was also fitted to the model (Model 1). The other models were identical to Model 1 but excluding OPP (Model 2) or PS (Model 3) or NBA (Model 4), which were explored to assess the consequence on additive variance estimates of not correcting for these animal-dependent factors. Estimated effective heritabilities of longevity were 0.07 ± 0.03, 0.03 ± 0.02, 0.14 ± 0.09, 0.05 ± 0.04, 0.02 ± 0.01 and 0.04 ± 0.01 for lines A, V, H, LP, R and for the merged data set, respectively. Removing the PS from the model led to an increase in the estimated additive genetic variance in all lines (0.17 ± 0.05, 0.05 ± 0.03, 0.29 ± 0.19, 0.29 ± 0.20, 0.07 ± 0.04 and 0.05 ± 0.02 for lines A, V, H, LP, R and the merged data set, respectively). The highest hazard of death and/or culling was observed during the first two parities and decreased as the order of parity progressed. Does non-pregnant-non-lactating had the highest risk of death or culling. The does that had zero kits born alive incurred the highest risk, and this risk decreased as the NBA increased. In conclusion, the consideration of longevity as selection criterion for the studied rabbit lines is not recommended.
Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping tools, which can analyse thousands of SNPs covering the whole genome, have opened new opportunities to estimate the inbreeding level of animals directly using genome information. One of the most commonly used genomic inbreeding measures considers the proportion of the autosomal genome covered by runs of homozygosity (ROH), which are defined as continuous and uninterrupted chromosome portions showing homozygosity at all loci. In this study, we analysed the distribution of ROH in three commercial pig breeds (Italian Large White, n = 1968; Italian Duroc, n = 573; and Italian Landrace, n = 46) and four autochthonous breeds (Apulo-Calabrese, n = 90; Casertana, n = 90; Cinta Senese, n = 38; and Nero Siciliano, n = 48) raised in Italy, using SNP data generated from Illumina PorcineSNP60 BeadChip. We calculated ROH-based inbreeding coefficients (FROH) using ROH of different minimum length (1, 2, 4, 8, 16 Mbp) and compared them with several other genomic inbreeding coefficients (including the difference between observed and expected number of homozygous genotypes (FHOM)) and correlated all these genomic-based measures with the pedigree inbreeding coefficient (FPED) calculated for the pigs of some of these breeds. Autochthonous breeds had larger mean size of ROH than all three commercial breeds. FHOM was highly correlated (0.671 to 0.985) with FROH measures in all breeds. Apulo-Calabrese and Casertana had the highest FROH values considering all ROH minimum lengths (ranging from 0.273 to 0.189 and from 0.226 to 0.152, moving from ROH of minimum size of 1 Mbp (FROH1) to 16 Mbp (FROH16)), whereas the lowest FROH values were for Nero Siciliano (from 0.072 to 0.051) and Italian Large White (from 0.117 to 0.042). FROH decreased as the minimum length of ROH increased for all breeds. Italian Duroc had the highest correlations between all FROH measures and FPED (from 0.514 to 0.523) and between FHOM and FPED (0.485). Among all analysed breeds, Cinta Senese had the lowest correlation between FROH and FPED. This might be due to the imperfect measure of FPED, which, mainly in local breeds raised in extensive production systems, cannot consider a higher level of pedigree errors and a potential higher relatedness of the founder population. It appeared that ROH better captured inbreeding information in the analysed breeds and could complement pedigree-based inbreeding coefficients for the management of these genetic resources.
Reggiana is an autochthonous cattle breed reared mainly in the province of Reggio Emilia, located in the North of Italy. Reggiana cattle (originally a triple-purpose population largely diffused in the North of Italy) are characterised by a typical solid red coat colour. About 2500 cows of this breed are currently registered to its herd book. Reggiana is now considered a dual-purpose breed even if it is almost completely dedicated to the production of a mono-breed branded Protected Designation of Origin Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which is the main driver of the sustainable conservation of this local genetic resource. In this study, we provided the first overview of genomic footprints that characterise Reggiana and define the diversity of this local cattle breed. A total of 168 Reggiana sires (all bulls born over 35 years for which semen was available) and other 3321 sires from 3 cosmopolitan breeds (Brown, Holstein and Simmental) were genotyped with the Illumina BovineSNP50 panel. ADMIXTURE analysis suggested that Reggiana breed might have been influenced, at least in part, by the other three breeds included in this study. Selection signatures in the Reggiana genome were identified using three statistical approaches based on allele frequency differences among populations or on properties of haplotypes segregating in the populations (fixation index (FST); integrated haplotype score; cross-population extended haplotype homozygosity). We identified several regions under peculiar selection in the Reggiana breed, particularly on bovine chromosome (BTA) 6 in the KIT gene region, that is known to be involved in coat colour pattern distribution, and within the region of the LAP3, NCAPG and LCORL genes, that are associated with stature, conformation and carcass traits. Another already known region that includes the PLAG1 gene (BTA14), associated with conformation traits, showed a selection signature in the Reggiana cattle. On BTA18, a signal of selection included the MC1R gene that causes the red coat colour in cattle. Other selection sweeps were in regions, with high density of quantitative trait loci for milk production traits (on BTA20) and in several other large regions that might have contributed to shape and define the Reggiana genome (on BTA17 and BTA29). All these results, overall, indicate that the Reggiana genome might still contain several signs of its multipurpose and non-specialised utilisation, as already described for other local cattle populations, in addition to footprints derived by its ancestral origin and by its adaptation to the specialised Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production system.
In order to map quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for allometries of body compositions and metabolic traits in chicken, we phenotypically characterize the allometric growths of multiple body components and metabolic traits relative to BWs using joint allometric scaling models and then establish random regression models (RRMs) to fit genetic effects of markers and minor polygenes derived from the pedigree on the allometric scalings. Prior to statistically inferring the QTLs for the allometric scalings by solving the RRMs, the LASSO technique is adopted to rapidly shrink most of marker genetic effects to zero. Computer simulation analysis confirms the reliability and adaptability of the so-called LASSO-RRM mapping method. In the F2 population constructed by multiple families, we formulate two joint allometric scaling models of body compositions and metabolic traits, in which six of nine body compositions are tested as significant, while six of eight metabolic traits are as significant. For body compositions, a total of 14 QTLs, of which 9 dominant, were detected to be associated with the allometric scalings of drumstick, fat, heart, shank, liver and spleen to BWs; while for metabolic traits, a total of 19 QTLs also including 9 dominant be responsible for the allometries of T4, IGFI, IGFII, GLC, INS, IGR to BWs. The detectable QTLs or highly linked markers can be used to regulate relative growths of the body components and metabolic traits to BWs in marker-assisted breeding of chickens.
Lamb live weight is one of the key drivers of profitability on sheep farms. Previous studies in Ireland have estimated genetic parameters for live weight and carcass composition traits using a multi-breed population rather than on an individual breed basis. The objective of the present study was to undertake genetic analyses of three lamb live weight and two carcass composition traits pertaining to purebred Texel, Suffolk and Charollais lambs born in the Republic of Ireland between 2010 and 2017, inclusive. Traits (with lamb age range in parenthesis) considered in the analyses were: pre-weaning weight (20 to 65 days), weaning weight (66 to 120 days), post-weaning weight (121 to 180 days), muscle depth (121 to 180 days) and fat depth (121 to 180 days). After data edits, 137 402 records from 50 372 lambs across 416 flocks were analysed. Variance components were derived using animal linear mixed models separately for each breed. Fixed effects included for all traits were contemporary group, age at first lambing of the dam, parity of the dam, a gender by age of the lamb interaction and a birth type by rearing type of the lamb interaction. Random effects investigated in the pre-weaning and weaning weight analyses included animal direct additive genetic, dam maternal genetic, litter common environment, dam permanent environment and residual variances. The model of analysis for post-weaning, muscle and fat depth included an animal direct additive genetic and litter common environment effect only. Significant direct additive genetic variation existed in all cases. Direct heritability for pre-weaning weight ranged from 0.14 to 0.30 across the three breeds. Weaning weight had a direct heritability ranging from 0.17 to 0.27 and post-weaning weight had a direct heritability ranging from 0.15 to 0.27. Muscle and fat depth heritability estimates ranged from 0.21 to 0.31 and 0.15 to 0.20, respectively. Positive direct correlations were evident for all traits. Results revealed ample genetic variation among animals for the studied traits and significant differences between breeds to suggest that genetic evaluations could be conducted on a per-breed basis.
As a result of the genetic selection for prolificacy and the improvements in the environment and farms management, litter size has increased in the last few years so that energy requirements of the lactating sow are greater. In addition, selection for feed efficiency of growing pigs is also conducted in maternal lines, and this has led to a decrease in appetite and feed intake that is extended to the lactation period, so the females are not able to obtain the necessary energy and nutrients for milk production and they mobilize their energetic reserves. When this mobilization is excessive, reproductive and health problems occur which ends up in an early sow culling. In this context, it has been suggested to improve feed efficiency at lactation through genetic selection. The aim of this study is to know, in a Duroc population, the genetic determinism of sow feed efficiency during lactation and traits involved in its definition, as well as genetic and environmental associations between them. The studied traits are daily lactation feed intake (dLFI), daily sow weight balance (dSWB), backfat thickness balance (BFTB), daily litter weight gain (dLWG), sow residual feed intake (RFI) and sow restricted residual feed intake (RRFI) during lactation. Data corresponded to 851 parities from 581 Duroc sows. A Bayesian analysis was performed using Gibbs sampling. A four-trait repeatability animal model was implemented including the systematic factors of batch and parity order, the standardized covariates of sow weight (SWf) and litter weight (LWs) at farrowing for all traits and lactation length for BFTB. The posterior mean (posterior SD) of heritabilities were: 0.09 (0.03) for dLFI, 0.37 (0.07) for dSWB, 0.09 (0.03) for BFTB, 0.22 (0.05) for dLWG, 0.04 (0.02) for RFI and null for RRFI. The genetic correlation between dLFI and dSWB was high and positive (0.74 (0.11)) and null between dLFI and BFTB. Genetic correlation was favourable between RFI and dLFI and BFTB (0.71 (0.16) and −0.69 (0.18)), respectively. The other genetic correlations were not statistically different from zero. The phenotypic correlations were low and positive between dLFI and dSWB (0.27 (0.03), dSWB and BFTB (0.25 (0.04)), and between dLFI and dLWG (0.16 (0.03)). Therefore, in the population under study, the improvement of the lactation feed efficiency would be possible either using RFI, which would not have unfavourable correlated effects, or through an index including its component traits.
Relationships play a very important role in studies on quantitative genetics. In traditional breeding, pedigree records are used to establish relationships between animals; while this kind of relationship actually represents one kind of relatedness, it cannot distinguish individual specificity, capture the variation between individuals or determine the actual genetic superiority of an animal. However, with the popularization of high-throughput genotypes, assessments of relationships among animals based on genomic information could be a better option. In this study, we compared the relationships between animals based on pedigree and genomic information from two pig breeding herds with different genetic backgrounds and a simulated dataset. Two different methods were implemented to calculate genomic relationship coefficients and genomic kinship coefficients, respectively. Our results show that, for the same kind of relative, the average genomic relationship coefficients (G matrix) were very close to the pedigree relationship coefficients (A matrix), and on average, the corresponding values were halved in genomic kinship coefficients (K matrix). However, the genomic relationship yielded a larger variation than the pedigree relationship, and the latter was similar to that expected for one relative with no or little variation. Two genomic relationship coefficients were highly correlated, for farm1, farm2 and simulated data, and the correlations for the parent-offspring, full-sib and half-sib were 0.95, 0.90 and 0.85; 0.93, 0.96 and 0.89; and 0.52, 0.85 and 0.77, respectively. When the inbreeding coefficient was measured, the genomic information also yielded a higher inbreeding coefficient and a larger variation than that yielded by the pedigree information. For the two genetically divergent Large White populations, the pedigree relationship coefficients between the individuals were 0, and 62 310 and 175 271 animal pairs in the G matrix and K matrix were greater than 0. Our results demonstrated that genomic information outperformed the pedigree information; it can more accurately reflect the relationships and capture the variation that is not detected by pedigree. This information is very helpful in the estimation of genomic breeding values or gene mapping. In addition, genomic information is useful for pedigree correction. Further, our findings also indicate that genomic information can establish the genetic connection between different groups with different genetic background. In addition, it can be used to provide a more accurate measurement of the inbreeding of an animal, which is very important for the assessment of a population structure and breeding plan. However, the approaches for measuring genomic relationships need further investigation.
Conservation of animal genetic resources requires regular monitoring and interventions to maintain population size and manage genetic variability. This study uses genealogical information to evaluate the impact of conservation measures in Europe, using (i) data from the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) and (ii) a posteriori assessment of the impact of various conservation measures on the genetic variability of 17 at-risk breeds with a wide range of interventions. Analysis of data from DAD-IS showed that 68% of national breed populations reported to receive financial support showed increasing demographic trends, v. 51% for those that did not. The majority of the 17 at-risk breeds have increased their numbers of registered animals over the last 20 years, but the changes in genetic variability per breed have not always matched the trend in population size. These differences in trends observed in the different metrics might be explained by the tensions between interventions to maintain genetic variability, and development initiatives which lead to intensification of selection.
Genetic parameters were estimated for haemoglobin (Hb) levels in sows and piglets as well as sow reproductive performance and piglet survival. Reproductive traits were available between 2005 and 2014 for 7857 litters from 1029 Large White and 858 Landrace sows. In 2012 and 2013, Hb levels, sow BW and sow back fat depth were measured on 348 sows with 529 litters 5 days prior to farrowing. In addition, Hb levels were available for 1127 one-day-old piglets from 383 litters (a maximum of three piglets per litter) of 277 sows with Hb levels. The average Hb levels in sows (sow Hb), their litters (litter Hb, based on average Hb of three piglets) and individual piglets (piglet Hb) were 112 ± 12.6 g/l, 103 ± 15.3 g/l and 105 ± 21.7 g/l, respectively. Heritabilities for Hb levels were 0.09 ± 0.07 for sow Hb, 0.19 ± 0.11 for litter Hb and 0.08 ± 0.05 for piglet Hb. Estimates for the permanent environment effect of sows were 0.09 ± 0.09 for sow Hb, 0.11 ± 0.12 for litter Hb and 0.12 ± 0.03 for piglet Hb. In comparison, heritabilities for both number of stillborn piglets and pre-weaning survival were lower (0.05 ± 0.01 and 0.04 ± 0.01). Sow BW had no significant heritability, while sow back fat depth was lowly heritable (0.10 ± 0.08). Positive genetic correlations were found between sow Hb and litter Hb (0.64 ± 0.47) and between litter Hb and sow back fat depth (0.71 ± 0.53). Higher litter Hb was genetically associated with lower number of stillborn piglets (−0.78 ± 0.35) and higher pre-weaning survival (0.28 ± 0.33). Negative genetic correlations between sow Hb and average piglet birth weight of the litter (−0.60 ± 0.34) and between piglet Hb and birth weight of individual piglets (−0.37 ± 0.32) indicate that selection for heavier piglets may reduce Hb levels in sows and piglets. Similarly, selection for larger litter size will reduce average piglet birth weight (rg: −0.40 ± 0.12) and pre-weaning survival (−0.57 ± 0.13) and may lead to lower litter Hb (−0.48 ± 0.27). This study shows promising first results for the use of Hb levels as a selection criterion in pig breeding programs, and selection for higher Hb levels may improve piglet survival and limit further reduction in Hb levels in sows and piglets due to selection for larger and heavier litters.
Feeding costs represent one of the highest expenditures in animal production systems. Breeding efficient animals that express their growth potential while eating less is therefore a major objective for breeders. We estimated the genetic parameters for feed intake, feed efficiency traits (residual feed intake (RFI) and feed conversion ratio (FCR)), growth and body composition traits in the Romane meat sheep breed. In these traits, selection responses to single-generation divergent selection on RFI were evaluated. From 2009 to 2016, a total of 951 male lambs were tested for 8 weeks starting from 3 months of age. They were weighed at the beginning and at the end of the testing period. Backfat thickness and muscle depth were recorded at the end of the testing period through ultrasound measurements. Feed intake was continuously recorded over the testing period using the automatic concentrate feeders. The heritability of RFI was estimated at 0.45 ± 0.08, which was higher than the heritability of FCR (0.30 ± 0.08). No significant genetic correlations were observed between RFI and growth traits. A favourable low negative genetic correlation was estimated between RFI and muscle depth (−0.30 ± 0.15), though additional data are needed to confirm these results. The selection of low RFI sires based on their breeding values led to the production of lambs eating significantly less concentrate (3% decrease in the average daily feed intake), but with the same growth as lambs from sires selected based on high RFI breeding values. We concluded that in meat sheep, RFI is a heritable trait that is genetically independent of post-weaning growth and body composition traits. A one-generation divergent selection based on RFI breeding values highlighted that substantial gains in feeding costs can be expected in selection schemes for meat sheep breeds.
Muscle fiber characteristics comprise a set of complex traits that influence the meat quality and lean meat production of livestock. However, the genetic and biological mechanisms regulating muscle fiber characteristics are largely unknown in pigs. Based on a genome-wide association study (GWAS) performed on 421 Large White × Min pig F2 individuals presenting well-characterized phenotypes, this work aimed to detect genome variations and candidate genes for five muscle fiber characteristics: percentage of type I fibers (FIB1P), percentage of type IIA fibers (FIB2AP), percentage of type IIB fibers (FIB2BP), diameter of muscle fibers (DIAMF) and number of muscle fibers per unit area (NUMMF). The GWAS used the Illumina Porcine SNP60K genotypic data, which were analyzed by a mixed model. Seven and 10 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were significantly associated with DIAMF and NUMMF, respectively (P < 1.10E-06); no SNP was significantly associated with FIB1P, FIB2AP or FIB2B. For DIAMF, the significant SNPs on chromosome 4 were located in the previously reported quantitative trait loci (QTL) interval. Because the significant SNPs on chromosome 6 were not mapped in the previously reported QTL interval, a putative novel QTL was suggested for this locus. None of the previously reported QTL intervals on chromosomes 6 and 14 harbored significant SNPs for NUMMF; thus, new potential QTLs on these two chromosomes are suggested in the present work. The most significant SNPs associated with DIAMF (ALGA0025682) and NUMMF (MARC0046984) explained 12.02% and 11.59% of the phenotypic variation of these traits, respectively. In addition, both SNPs were validated as associated with DIAMF and NUMMF in Beijing Black pigs (P < 0.01). Some candidate genes or non-coding RNAs, such as solute carrier family 44 member 5 and miR-124a-1 for DIAMF, and coiled-coil serine rich protein 2 for NUMMF, were identified based on their close location to the significant SNPs. This study revealed some genome-wide association variants for muscle fiber characteristics, and it provides valuable information to discover the genetic mechanisms controlling these traits in pigs.
Knowledge of population structure and breed composition of a population can be advantageous for a number of reasons; these include designing optimal (cross)breeding strategies in order to maximise non-additive genetic effects, maintaining flockbook integrity by authenticating animals being registered and as a quality control measure in the genotyping process. The objectives of the present study were to 1) describe the population structure of 24 sheep breeds, 2) quantify the breed composition of both flockbook-recorded and crossbred animals using single nucleotide polymorphism BLUP (SNP-BLUP), and 3) quantify the accuracy of breed composition prediction from low-density genotype panels containing between 2000 and 6000 SNPs. In total, 9334 autosomal SNPs on 11 144 flockbook-recorded animals and 1172 crossbred animals were used. The population structure of all breeds was characterised by principal component analysis (PCA) as well as the pairwise breed fixation index (Fst). The total number of animals, all of which were purebred, included in the calibration population for SNP-BLUP was 2579 with the number of animals per breed ranging from 9 to 500. The remaining 9559 flockbook-recorded animals, composite breeds and crossbred animals represented the test population; three breeds were excluded from breed composition prediction. The breed composition predicted using SNP-BLUP with 9334 SNPs was considered the gold standard prediction. The pairwise breed Fst ranged from 0.040 (between the Irish Blackface and Scottish Blackface) to 0.282 (between the Border Leicester and Suffolk). Principal component analysis revealed that the Suffolk from Ireland and the Suffolk from New Zealand formed distinct, non-overlapping clusters. In contrast, the Texel from Ireland and that from New Zealand formed integrated, overlapping clusters. Composite animals such as the Belclare clustered close to its founder breeds (i.e., Finn, Galway, Lleyn and Texel). When all 9334 SNPs were used to predict breed composition, an animal that had a majority breed proportion predicted to be ≥0.90 was defined as purebred for the present study. As the panel density decreased, the predicted breed proportion threshold, used to identify animals as purebred, also decreased (≥0.85 with 6000 SNPs to ≥0.60 with 2000 SNPs). In all, results from the study suggest that breed composition for purebred and crossbred animals can be determined with SNP-BLUP using ≥5000 SNPs.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) able to describe population differences can be used for important applications in livestock, including breed assignment of individual animals, authentication of mono-breed products and parentage verification among several other applications. To identify the most discriminating SNPs among thousands of markers in the available commercial SNP chip tools, several methods have been used. Random forest (RF) is a machine learning technique that has been proposed for this purpose. In this study, we used RF to analyse PorcineSNP60 BeadChip array genotyping data obtained from a total of 2737 pigs of 7 Italian pig breeds (3 cosmopolitan-derived breeds: Italian Large White, Italian Duroc and Italian Landrace, and 4 autochthonous breeds: Apulo-Calabrese, Casertana, Cinta Senese and Nero Siciliano) to identify breed informative and reduced SNP panels using the mean decrease in the Gini Index and the Mean Decrease in Accuracy parameters with stability evaluation. Other reduced informative SNP panels were obtained using Delta, Fixation index and principal component analysis statistics, and their performances were compared with those obtained using the RF-defined panels using the RF classification method and its derived Out Of Bag rates and correct prediction proportions. Therefore, the performances of a total of six reduced panels were evaluated. The correct assignment of the animals to its breed was close to 100% for all tested approaches. Porcine chromosome 8 harboured the largest number of selected SNPs across all panels. Many SNPs were included in genomic regions in which previous studies identified signatures of selection or genes (e.g. ESR1, KITL and LCORL) that could contribute to explain, at least in part, phenotypically or economically relevant traits that might differentiate cosmopolitan and autochthonous pig breeds. Random forest used as preselection statistics highlighted informative SNPs that were not the same as those identified by other methods. This might be due to specific features of this machine learning methodology. It will be interesting to explore if the adaptation of RF methods for the identification of selection signature regions could be able to describe population-specific features that are not captured by other approaches.
Vorderwald cattle are a regional cattle breed from the Black Forest in south western Germany. In recent decades, commercial breeds have been introgressed to upgrade the breed in performance traits. On one hand, native genetic diversity of the breed should be conserved. On the other hand, moderate rates of genetic gain are needed to satisfy breeders to keep the breed. These goals are antagonistic, since the native proportion of the gene pool is negatively correlated to performance traits and the carriers of introgressed alleles are less related to the population. Thus, a standard Optimum Contribution Selection (OCS) approach would lead to reinforced selection on migrant contributions (MC). Our objective was the development of strategies for practical implementation of an OCS approach to manage the MC and native genetic diversity of regional breeds. Additionally, we examined the organisational efforts and the financial impacts on the breeding scheme of Vorderwald cattle. We chose the advanced Optimum Contribution Selection (aOCS) to manage the breed in stochastic simulations based on real pedigree data. In addition to standard OCS approaches, aOCS facilitates the management of the MC and the rate of inbreeding at native alleles. We examined two aOCS strategies. Both strategies maximised genetic gain, while strategy (I) conserved the MC in the breeding population and strategy (II) reduced the MC at a predefined annual rate. These two approaches were combined with one of three flows of replacement of sires (FoR strategies). Additionally, we compared breeding costs to clarify about the financial impact of implementing aOCS in a young sire breeding scheme. According to our results, conserving the MC in the population led to significantly (P < 0.01) higher genetic gain (1.16 ± 0.13 points/year) than reducing the MC (0.88 ± 0.10 points/year). In simulation scenarios that conserved the MC, the final value of MC was 57.6% ± 0.004, while being constraint to 58.2%. However, reducing the MC is only partially feasible based on pedigree data. Additionally, this study proves that the classical rate of inbreeding can be managed by constraining only the rate of inbreeding at native alleles within the aOCS approach. The financial comparison of the different breeding schemes proved the feasibility of implementing aOCS in Vorderwald cattle. Implementing the modelled breeding scheme would reduce costs by 1.1% compared with the actual scheme. Reduced costs were underpinned by additional genetic gain in superior simulation scenarios compared to expected genetic gain in reality (+4.85%).
Young stock survival is a trait of crucial importance in cattle breeding as calf mortality leads to economic losses and represents an animal welfare issue. The aim of this study was to estimate genetic parameters and sire breeding values for young stock survival in beef x dairy crossbred calves. Two traits were analysed with a univariate animal model: young stock survival between 1 to 30 days and 31 to 200 days after birth. Breed combinations with Belgian Blue sires outperformed all other sire breeds. The lowest survival rates were found for breed combinations with Jersey dams or Blonde d’Aquitaine sires. The results showed low but significant heritabilities (0.045 to 0.075) for both survival traits. Differences in breeding values between sires ranged from −2.5% to 3.5% and from −5.4% to 4.7% survival from 1 to 30 days and 31 to 200 days, respectively. Based on these findings, we concluded that it is feasible to breed for improved young stock survival in beef x dairy crossbred calves. This will hopefully contribute to increasing the survival rate of the calves and reduce economic losses for the farmers.