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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.
Inflammation of the mammary gland following bacterial infection, commonly known as mastitis, affects all mammalian species. Although the aetiology and epidemiology of mastitis in the dairy cow are well described, the genetic factors mediating resistance to mammary gland infection are not well known, due in part to the difficulty in obtaining robust phenotypic information from sufficiently large numbers of individuals. To address this problem, an experimental mammary gland infection experiment was undertaken, using a Friesian-Jersey cross breed F2 herd. A total of 604 animals received an intramammary infusion of Streptococcus uberis in one gland, and the clinical response over 13 milkings was used for linkage mapping and genome-wide association analysis. A quantitative trait locus (QTL) was detected on bovine chromosome 11 for clinical mastitis status using micro-satellite and Affymetrix 10 K SNP markers, and then exome and genome sequence data used from the six F1 sires of the experimental animals to examine this region in more detail. A total of 485 sequence variants were typed in the QTL interval, and association mapping using these and an additional 37 986 genome-wide markers from the Illumina SNP50 bovine SNP panel revealed association with markers encompassing the interleukin-1 gene cluster locus. This study highlights a region on bovine chromosome 11, consistent with earlier studies, as conferring resistance to experimentally induced mammary gland infection, and newly prioritises the IL1 gene cluster for further analysis in genetic resistance to mastitis.
Early detection of karyotype abnormalities, including aneuploidy, could aid producers in identifying animals which, for example, would not be suitable candidate parents. Genome-wide genetic marker data in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are now being routinely generated on animals. The objective of the present study was to describe the statistics that could be generated from the allele intensity values from such SNP data to diagnose karyotype abnormalities; of particular interest was whether detection of aneuploidy was possible with both commonly used genotyping platforms in agricultural species, namely the Applied BiosystemsTM AxiomTM and the Illumina platform. The hypothesis was tested using a case study of a set of dizygotic X-chromosome monosomy 53,X sheep twins. Genome-wide SNP data were available from the Illumina platform (11 082 autosomal and 191 X-chromosome SNPs) on 1848 male and 8954 female sheep and available from the AxiomTM platform (11 128 autosomal and 68 X-chromosome SNPs) on 383 female sheep. Genotype allele intensity values, either as their original raw values or transformed to logarithm intensity ratio (LRR), were used to accurately diagnose two dizygotic (i.e. fraternal) twin 53,X sheep, both of which received their single X chromosome from their sire. This is the first reported case of 53,X dizygotic twins in any species. Relative to the X-chromosome SNP genotype mean allele intensity values of normal females, the mean allele intensity value of SNP genotypes on the X chromosome of the two females monosomic for the X chromosome was 7.45 to 12.4 standard deviations less, and were easily detectable using either the AxiomTM or Illumina genotype platform; the next lowest mean allele intensity value of a female was 4.71 or 3.3 standard deviations less than the population mean depending on the platform used. Both 53,X females could also be detected based on the genotype LRR although this was more easily detectable when comparing the mean LRR of the X chromosome of each female to the mean LRR of their respective autosomes. On autopsy, the ovaries of the two sheep were small for their age and evidence of prior ovulation was not appreciated. In both sheep, the density of primordial follicles in the ovarian cortex was lower than normally found in ovine ovaries and primary follicle development was not observed. Mammary gland development was very limited. Results substantiate previous studies in other species that aneuploidy can be readily detected using SNP genotype allele intensity values generally already available, and the approach proposed in the present study was agnostic to genotype platform.
The overall objective of a series of experiments to investigate ‘metabolic stress’ was to examine the relationships between ‘metabolic load’, disease and other parameters associated with the welfare of the dairy cow. In the main, these used several well controlled herd based studies complimented with more basic and strategic investigations. In this paper we compare and contrast practical aspects of health and welfare in two high genetic merit herds managed at the extremes of inputs and outputs for dairy farming in south-west Scotland. The hypothesis was that high output herds would have more health and welfare problems than low input herds. Two herds (70 Holstein-Friesian cows each) at SAC Acrehead Dumfries of a similar genetic background (overall in the top 5% of UK cows by PIN and ITEM), were housed in identical buildings and tended by the same herdsman. Both herds had autumn- and spring-calving cattle. The ‘low input’ herd (LI) was given a minimum of concentrate (approx. 0.5 t per cow per year) and milked twice a day and had a restricted quota of 385 000 l. The ‘high output’ herd (HO) was managed for high yields (unrestricted quota) and was given concentrates (2 t per cow per year) and forage ad libitum and milked three times daily. In 1995-96 the sole source of winter forage was grass/clover silage (LI) or grass silage (HO) but in 1996-1998 ensiled cereal and fodder beet were included in both diets. ‘Metabolic load’ could only be inferred from overall inputs, milk outputs, weight loss, body condition score and behaviour. There were significant differences in 305-day lactation yields between herds, and season of calving especially in 1995-96 (LI autumn; 5952 l at 30 g/kg protein (P); LI spring; 5741 l, 32.5 g/kg P; HO autumn; 9541 l at 32.8 g/kg P; HO spring; 8402 l, 32.6 g/kg P). LI weight and body condition-score losses were greatest in this year and behavioural studies showed substantial differences in feeding time (HO < LI, P < 0.05) and total lying time (LI < HO; P < 0.05). However these differences were much less marked in subsequent years. There was a significant difference in the prevalence and incidence of clinical lameness between herds (HO > LI; P < 0.05) and season (autumn > spring P < 0.05) but not for mastitis or metabolic disease. An in-depth study of subclinical claw horn lesion development in first calving heifers showed significant differences between herds in 1996-97 (LI > HO, P < 0.05) but none in 1995-96. There was a significant difference for season in both years (autumn > spring, P < 0.05). Analysis of blood biochemistry parameters of samples taken at approximately 1 month after calving showed some significant differences between LI and HO generally indicating a greater ‘metabolic load’ for LI. Although the full effects of ‘metabolic load’ on immune function and reproduction are dealt with elsewhere our preliminary data showed no significant differences between herds for the former but some significant differences for the latter, in particular there were differences in aspects of the progesterone profiles between herds and more importantly between seasons. However these latter differences were not clearly reflected in conception rates. It was concluded that the hypothesis was not fully sustained and that both systems had pitfalls in terms of welfare. The three major areas causing difficulties for both systems were the need first to ensure adequate intake of forage; secondly to limit the environmental challenge to the feet and udder and finally to marry these systems to the factors limiting reproduction, primarily calving season and ability of reproduction management.
Attenuated positive symptom syndrome (APSS), characterized by ‘putatively prodromal’ attenuated psychotic-like pathology, indicates increased risk for psychosis. Poor premorbid social adjustment predicts severity of APSS symptoms and predicts subsequent psychosis in APSS-diagnosed individuals, suggesting application for improving detection of ‘true’ prodromal youth who will transition to psychosis. However, these predictive associations have not been tested in controls and therefore may be independent of the APSS diagnosis, negating utility for improving prediction in APSS-diagnosed individuals.
Association between premorbid social maladjustment and severity of positive, negative, disorganized, and general APSS symptoms was tested in 156 individuals diagnosed with APSS and 76 help-seeking (non-APSS) controls enrolled in the Enhancing the Prospective Prediction of Psychosis (PREDICT) study using prediction analysis.
Premorbid social maladjustment was associated with social anhedonia, reduced expression of emotion, restricted ideational richness, and deficits in occupational functioning, independent of the APSS diagnosis. Associations between social maladjustment and suspiciousness, unusual thought content, avolition, dysphoric mood, and impaired tolerance to normal stress were uniquely present in participants meeting APSS criteria. Social maladjustment was associated with odd behavior/appearance and diminished experience of emotions and self only in participants who did not meet APSS criteria.
Predictive associations between poor premorbid social adjustment and attenuated psychotic-like pathology were identified, a subset of which were indicative of high risk for psychosis. This study offers a method for improving risk identification while ruling out low-risk individuals.
Accurate genomic analyses are predicated on access to a large quantity of accurately genotyped and phenotyped animals. Because the cost of genotyping is often less than the cost of phenotyping, interest is increasing in generating genotypes for phenotyped animals. In some instances this may imply the requirement to genotype older animals with greater phenotypic information content. Biological material for these older informative animals may, however, no longer exist. The objective of the present study was to quantify the ability to impute 11 129 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes of non-genotyped animals (in this instance sires) from the genotypes of their progeny with or without including the genotypes of the progenys’ dams (i.e. mates of the sire to be imputed). The impact on the accuracy of genotype imputation by including more progeny (and their dams’) genotypes in the imputation reference population was also quantified. When genotypes of the dams were not available, genotypes of 41 sires with at least 15 genotyped progeny were used for the imputation; when genotypes of the dams were available, genotypes of 21 sires with at least 10 genotyped progeny were used for the imputation. Imputation was undertaken exploiting family and population level information. The mean and variability in the proportion of genotypes per individual that could not be imputed reduced as the number of progeny genotypes used per individual increased. Little improvement in the proportion of genotypes that could not be imputed was achieved once genotypes of seven progeny and their dams were used or genotypes of 11 progeny without their respective dam’s genotypes were used. Mean imputation accuracy per individual (depicted by both concordance rates and correlation between true and imputed) increased with increasing progeny group size. Moreover, the range in mean imputation accuracy per individual reduced as more progeny genotypes were used in the imputation. If the genotype of the mate of the sire was also used, high accuracy of imputation (mean genotype concordance rate per individual of 0.988), with little additional benefit thereafter, was achieved with seven genotyped progeny. In the absence of genotypes on the dam, similar imputation accuracy could not be achieved even using genotypes on up to 15 progeny. Results therefore suggest, at least for the SNP density used in the present study, that it is possible to accurately impute the genotypes of a non-genotyped parent from the genotypes of its progeny and there is a benefit of also including the genotype of the sire’s mate (i.e. dam of the progeny).
A range of precision farming technologies are used commercially for variable rate applications of nitrogen (N) for cereals, yet these usually adjust N rates from a pre-set value, rather than predicting economically optimal N requirements on an absolute basis. This paper reports chessboard experiments set up to examine variation in N requirements, and to develop and test systems for its prediction, and to assess its predictability. Results showed very substantial variability in fertiliser N requirements within fields, typically >150 kg ha−1, and large variation in optimal yields, typically >2 t ha−1. Despite this, calculated increases in yield and gross margin with N requirements perfectly matched across fields were surprisingly modest (compared to the uniform average rate). Implications are discussed, including the causes of the large remaining variation in grain yield, after N limitations were removed.
To characterize the multiple dimensions and benefits of the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet, in order to revitalize this intangible food heritage at the country level; and to develop a multidimensional framework – the Med Diet 4.0 – in which four sustainability benefits of the Mediterranean diet are presented in parallel: major health and nutrition benefits, low environmental impacts and richness in biodiversity, high sociocultural food values, and positive local economic returns.
A narrative review was applied at the country level to highlight the multiple sustainable benefits of the Mediterranean diet into a single multidimensional framework: the Med Diet 4.0.
We included studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals that contained data on the characterization of sustainable diets and of the Mediterranean diet. The methodological framework approach was finalized through a series of meetings, workshops and conferences where the framework was presented, discussed and ultimately refined.
The Med Diet 4.0 provides a conceptual multidimensional framework to characterize the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet model, by applying principles of sustainability to the Mediterranean diet.
By providing a broader understanding of the many sustainable benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the Med Diet 4.0 can contribute to the revitalization of the Mediterranean diet by improving its current perception not only as a healthy diet but also a sustainable lifestyle model, with country-specific and culturally appropriate variations. It also takes into account the identity and diversity of food cultures and systems, expressed within the notion of the Mediterranean diet, across the Mediterranean region and in other parts of the world. Further multidisciplinary studies are needed for the assessment of the sustainability of the Mediterranean diet to include these new dimensions.
The objective of the present study was to quantify the extent of genetic variation in three health-related traits namely dagginess, lameness and mastitis, in an Irish sheep population. Each of the health traits investigated pose substantial welfare implications as well as considerable economic costs to producers. Data were also available on four body-related traits, namely body condition score (BCS), live weight, muscle depth and fat depth. Animals were categorised as lambs (<365 days old) or ewes (⩾365 days old) and were analysed both separately and combined. After edits, 39 315 records from 264 flocks between the years 2009 and 2015 inclusive were analysed. Variance components were estimated using animal linear mixed models. Fixed effects included contemporary group, represented as a three-way interaction between flock, date of inspection and animal type (i.e. lamb, yearling ewe (i.e. females ⩾365 days but <730 days old that have not yet had a recorded lambing) or ewe), animal breed proportion, coefficients of heterosis and recombination, animal gender (lambs only), animal parity (ewes only; lambs were assigned a separate ‘parity’) and the difference in age of the animal from the median of the respective parity/age group. An additive genetic effect and residual effect were both fitted as random terms with maternal genetic and non-genetic components also considered for traits of the lambs. The direct heritability of dagginess was similar across age groups (0.14 to 0.15), whereas the direct heritability of lameness ranged from 0.06 (ewes) to 0.12 (lambs). The direct heritability of mastitis was 0.04. For dagginess, 13% of the phenotypic variation was explained by dam litter, whereas the maternal heritability of dagginess was 0.05. The genetic correlation between ewe and lamb dagginess was 0.38; the correlation between ewe and lamb lameness was close to zero but was associated with a large standard error. Direct genetic correlations were evident between dagginess and BCS in ewes and between lameness and BCS in lambs. The present study has demonstrated that ample genetic variation exists for all three health traits investigated indicating that genetic improvement is indeed possible.
Information on the genetic diversity and population structure of cattle breeds is useful when deciding the most optimal, for example, crossbreeding strategies to improve phenotypic performance by exploiting heterosis. The present study investigated the genetic diversity and population structure of the most prominent dairy and beef breeds used in Ireland. Illumina high-density genotypes (777 962 single nucleotide polymorphisms; SNPs) were available on 4623 purebred bulls from nine breeds; Angus (n=430), Belgian Blue (n=298), Charolais (n=893), Hereford (n=327), Holstein-Friesian (n=1261), Jersey (n=75), Limousin (n=943), Montbéliarde (n=33) and Simmental (n=363). Principal component analysis revealed that Angus, Hereford, and Jersey formed non-overlapping clusters, representing distinct populations. In contrast, overlapping clusters suggested geographical proximity of origin and genetic similarity between Limousin, Simmental and Montbéliarde and to a lesser extent between Holstein, Friesian and Belgian Blue. The observed SNP heterozygosity averaged across all loci was 0.379. The Belgian Blue had the greatest mean observed heterozygosity (HO=0.389) among individuals within breed while the Holstein-Friesian and Jersey populations had the lowest mean heterozygosity (HO=0.370 and 0.376, respectively). The correlation between the genomic-based and pedigree-based inbreeding coefficients was weak (r=0.171; P<0.001). Mean genomic inbreeding estimates were greatest for Jersey (0.173) and least for Hereford (0.051). The pair-wise breed fixation index (Fst) ranged from 0.049 (Limousin and Charolais) to 0.165 (Hereford and Jersey). In conclusion, substantial genetic variation exists among breeds commercially used in Ireland. Thus custom-mating strategies would be successful in maximising the exploitation of heterosis in crossbreeding strategies.
The increased demand for animal-derived protein and energy for human consumption will have to be achieved through a combination of improved animal genetic merit and better management strategies. The objective of the present study was to quantify whether differences in genetic merit among animals materialised into phenotypic differences in commercial herds. Carcass phenotypes on 156 864 animals from 7301 finishing herds were used, which included carcass weight (kg), carcass conformation score (scale 1 to 15), carcass fat score (scale 1 to 15) at slaughter as well as carcass price. The price per kilogram and the total carcass value that the producer received for the animal at slaughter was also used. A terminal index, calculated in the national genetic evaluations, was obtained for each animal. The index was based on pedigree index for calving performance, feed intake and carcass traits from the national genetic evaluations. Animals were categorised into four terminal index groups on the basis of genetic merit estimates that were derived before the expression of the phenotypic information by the validation animals. The association between terminal index and phenotypic performance at slaughter was undertaken using mixed models; whether the association differed by gender (i.e. young bulls, steers and heifers) or by early life experiences (animals born in a dairy herd or beef herd) was also investigated. The regression coefficient of phenotypic carcass weight, carcass conformation and carcass fat on their respective estimated breeding values (EBVs) was 0.92 kg, 1.08 units and 0.79 units, respectively, which is close to the expectation of one. Relative to animals in the lowest genetic merit group, animals in the highest genetic merit group had, on average, a 38.7 kg heavier carcass, with 2.21 units greater carcass conformation, and 0.82 units less fat. The superior genetic merit animals were, on average, slaughtered 6 days younger than their inferior genetic merit contemporaries. The superior carcass characteristics of the genetically elite animals materialised in carcasses worth €187 more than those of the lowest genetic merit animals. Although the phenotypic difference in carcass traits of animals divergent in terminal index differed statistically by animal gender and early life experience, the detected interactions were generally biologically small. This study clearly indicates that selection on an appropriate terminal index will produce higher performing animals and this was consistent across all production systems investigated.
The relative weighting on traits within breeding goals are generally determined by bio-economic models or profit functions. While such methods have generally delivered profitability gains to producers, and are being expanded to consider non-market values, current approaches generally do not consider the numerous and diverse stakeholders that affect, or are affected, by such tools. Based on principles of respondent anonymity, iteration, controlled feedback and statistical aggregation of feedback, a Delphi study was undertaken to gauge stakeholder opinion of the importance of detailed milk quality traits within an overall dairy breeding goal for profit, with the aim of assessing its suitability as a complementary, participatory approach to defining breeding goals. The questionnaires used over two survey rounds asked stakeholders: (a) their opinion on incorporating an explicit sub-index for milk quality into a national breeding goal; (b) the importance they would assign to a pre-determined list of milk quality traits and (c) the (relative) weighting they would give such a milk quality sub-index. Results from the survey highlighted a good degree of consensus among stakeholders on the issues raised. Similarly, revelation of the underlying assumptions and knowledge used by stakeholders to make their judgements illustrated their ability to consider a range of perspectives when evaluating traits, and to reconsider their answers based on the responses and rationales given by others, which demonstrated social learning. Finally, while the relative importance assigned by stakeholders in the Delphi survey (4% to 10%) and the results of calculations based on selection index theory of the relative emphasis that should be placed on milk quality to halt any deterioration (16%) are broadly in line, the difference indicates the benefit of considering more than one approach to determining breeding goals. This study thus illustrates the role of the Delphi technique, as a complementary approach to traditional approaches, to defining breeding goals. This has implications for how breeding goals will be defined and in determining who should be involved in the decision-making process.
Optical properties and thermal relaxation dynamics of resonantly excited plasmons are important in applications for optoelectronics, biomedicine, energy, and catalysis. Geometric optics of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) thin films containing uniformly or asymmetrically distributed polydisperse reduced AuNPs or uniformly distributed monodisperse solution-synthesized AuNPs were recently evaluated using a compact linear algebraic sum. Algebraic calculation of geometric transmission, reflection, and attenuation for AuNP-PDMS films provides a simple, workable alternative to effective medium approximations, computationally expensive methods, and fitting of experimental data. This approach allows for the summative optical responses of a sequence of 2D elements comprising a 3D assembly to be analyzed. Thin PDMS films containing 3-7 micron layers of reduced AuNPs were fabricated with a novel diffusive-reduction synthesis technique. Rapid diffusive reduction of AuNPs into asymmetric PDMS thin films provided superior photothermal response relative to thicker films with AuNPs reduced throughout, with a photon-to-heat conversion of up to 3000°C/watt which represents 3-230-fold increase over previous AuNP-functionalized systems. Later work showed that introduction of AuNPs into PDMS enhanced thermoplasmonic dissipation coincident with internal reflection of incident resonant irradiation. Measured thermal emission and dynamics of AuNP-PDMS thin films exceeded emission and dynamics attributable by finite element analysis to Mie absorption, Fourier heat conduction, Rayleigh convection, and Stefan-Boltzmann radiation. Refractive-index matching experiments and measured temperature profiles indicated AuNP-containing thin films internally reflected light and dissipated power transverse to the film surface. Enhanced thermoplasmonic dissipation from metal-polymer nanocomposite thin films could affect opto- and bio-electronic implementation of these systems.
The aim of the present study was to estimate genetic parameters for calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and titratable acidity (TA) in bovine milk predicted by mid-IR spectroscopy (MIRS). Data consisted of 2458 Italian Holstein−Friesian cows sampled once in 220 farms. Information per sample on protein and fat percentage, pH and somatic cell count, as well as test-day milk yield, was also available. (Co)variance components were estimated using univariate and bivariate animal linear mixed models. Fixed effects considered in the analyses were herd of sampling, parity, lactation stage and a two-way interaction between parity and lactation stage; an additive genetic and residual term were included in the models as random effects. Estimates of heritability for Ca, P and TA were 0.10, 0.12 and 0.26, respectively. Positive moderate to strong phenotypic correlations (0.33 to 0.82) existed between Ca, P and TA, whereas phenotypic weak to moderate correlations (0.00 to 0.45) existed between these traits with both milk quality and yield. Moderate to strong genetic correlations (0.28 to 0.92) existed between Ca, P and TA, and between these predicted traits with both fat and protein percentage (0.35 to 0.91). The existence of heritable genetic variation for Ca, P and TA, coupled with the potential to predict these components for routine cow milk testing, imply that genetic gain in these traits is indeed possible.
The objective of this study was to identify detailed fertility traits in dairy and beef cattle from transrectal ultrasonography records and quantify the associated risk factors. Data were available on 148 947 ultrasound observations of the reproductive tract from 75 949 cows in 843 Irish dairy and beef herds between March 2008 and October 2012. Traits generated included (1) cycling at time of examination, (2) cystic structures, (3) early ovulation, (4) embryo death and (5) uterine score; the latter was measured on a scale of 1 (good) to 4 (poor) characterising the tone of the uterine wall and fluid present in the uterus. After editing, 72 773 records from 44 415 dairy and beef cows in 643 herds remained. Factors associated with the logit of the probability of a positive outcome for each of the binary fertility traits were determined using generalised estimating equations; linear mixed model analysis was used for the analysis of uterine score. The prevalence of cycling, cystic structures, early ovulation and embryo death was 84.75%, 3.87%, 7.47% and 3.84%, respectively. The occurrence of the uterine heath score of 1, 2, 3 and 4 was 70.63%, 19.75%, 8.36% and 1.26%, respectively. Cows in beef herds had a 0.51 odds (95% CI=0.41 to 0.63, P<0.001) of cycling at the time of examination compared with cows in dairy herds; stage of lactation at the time of examination was the same in both herd types. Furthermore, cows in dairy herds had an inferior uterine score (indicating poorer tone and a greater quantity of uterine fluid present) compared with cows in beef herds. The likelihood of cycling at the time of examination increased with parity and stage of lactation, but was reduced in cows that had experienced dystocia in the previous calving. The presence of cystic structures on the ovaries increased with parity and stage of lactation. The likelihood of embryo/foetal death increased with parity and stage of lactation. Dystocia was not associated with the presence of cystic structures or embryo death. Uterine score improved with parity and stage of lactation, while cows that experienced dystocia in the previous calving had an inferior uterine score. Heterosis was the only factor associated with increased likelihood of early ovulation. The fertility traits identified, and the associated risk factors, provide useful information on the reproductive status of dairy and beef cows.
The objective of this study was to quantify the accuracy of imputing the genotype of parents using information on the genotype of their progeny and a family-based and population-based imputation algorithm. Two separate data sets were used, one containing both dairy and beef animals (n=3122) with high-density genotypes (735 151 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) and the other containing just dairy animals (n=5489) with medium-density genotypes (51 602 SNPs). Imputation accuracy of three different genotype density panels were evaluated representing low (i.e. 6501 SNPs), medium and high density. The full genotypes of sires with genotyped half-sib progeny were masked and subsequently imputed. Genotyped half-sib progeny group sizes were altered from 4 up to 12 and the impact on imputation accuracy was quantified. Up to 157 and 258 sires were used to test the accuracy of imputation in the dairy plus beef data set and the dairy-only data set, respectively. The efficiency and accuracy of imputation was quantified as the proportion of genotypes that could not be imputed, and as both the genotype concordance rate and allele concordance rate. The median proportion of genotypes per animal that could not be imputed in the imputation process decreased as the number of genotyped half-sib progeny increased; values for the medium-density panel ranged from a median of 0.015 with a half-sib progeny group size of 4 to a median of 0.0014 to 0.0015 with a half-sib progeny group size of 8. The accuracy of imputation across different paternal half-sib progeny group sizes was similar in both data sets. Concordance rates increased considerably as the number of genotyped half-sib progeny increased from four (mean animal allele concordance rate of 0.94 in both data sets for the medium-density genotype panel) to five (mean animal allele concordance rate of 0.96 in both data sets for the medium-density genotype panel) after which it was relatively stable up to a half-sib progeny group size of eight. In the data set with dairy-only animals, sufficient sires with paternal half-sib progeny groups up to 12 were available and the within-animal mean genotype concordance rates continued to increase up to this group size. The accuracy of imputation was worst for the low-density genotypes, especially with smaller half-sib progeny group sizes but the difference in imputation accuracy between density panels diminished as progeny group size increased; the difference between high and medium-density genotype panels was relatively small across all half-sib progeny group sizes. Where biological material or genotypes are not available on individual animals, at least five progeny can be genotyped (on either a medium or high-density genotyping platform) and the parental alleles imputed with, on average, ⩾96% accuracy.
Genetic selection for milking speed is feasible. The existence of a correlation structure between milking speed and milk yield, however, necessitates a selection strategy to increase milking speed with no repercussion on genetic merit for milk yield. Residual milking duration (RMD) and residual milking duration including somatic cell score (RMDS), defined as the residuals from a regression model of milking duration on milk yield or milk yield plus somatic cell score (SCS) have been advocated. The objective of this study was to undertake a first ever genetic analysis of these novel traits. Data on electronically recorded milking duration and other milking characteristics from 235 005 test-day records on 74 608 cows in 1075 Irish dairy herds were available. Variance components for the milking characteristic traits were estimated using animal linear mixed models and covariances with other performance traits, including udder-related type traits, were estimated using sire models. The heritability of milking duration, RMD and RMDS was 0.20, 0.22 and 0.18, respectively. There were little differences in the heritability of RMD or RMDS when defined using genetic regression. The genetic standard deviation of RMDS defined on the phenotypic or genetic level was 36.8 s and 37.6 s, respectively, clearly indicating considerable exploitable genetic variation in milking duration independent of both milk yield and SCS. The genetic correlation between phenotypically derived RMDS and milk yield was favourable (−0.43), but RMDS was unfavourably genetically correlated with SCS (−0.30); the genetic correlations with both traits when RMDS was defined at a genetic level were zero. RMDS defined at the phenotypic level was negatively (i.e. unfavourable) genetically correlated (−0.35; s.e. = 0.15) with mastitis; however, when defined using genetic regression, shorter RMDS was not associated with greater expected incidence of mastitis. RMDS, defined at the genetic level, is a useful heritable trait with ample genetic variation for inclusion in a national breeding strategy without influencing genetic gain in either milk yield or udder health.
A phenotype describes the outcome of the interacting development between the genotype of an individual and its specific environment throughout life. Animal breeding currently exploits large data sets of phenotypic and pedigree information to estimate the genetic merit of animals. Here we describe rapid, low-cost phenomic tools for dairy cattle. We give particular emphasis to infrared spectroscopy of milk because the necessary spectral data are already routinely available on milk samples from individual cows and herds, and therefore the operational cost of implementing such a phenotyping strategy is minimal. The accuracy of predicting milk quality traits from mid-infrared spectroscopy (MIR) analysis of milk, although dependent on the trait under investigation, is particularly promising for differentiating between good and poor-quality dairy products. Many fatty acid concentrations in milk, and in particular saturated fatty acid content, can be very accurately predicted from milk MIR. These results have been confirmed in many international populations. Albeit from only two studied populations investigated in the RobustMilk project, milk MIR analysis also appears to be a reasonable predictor of cow energy balance, a measure of animal robustness; high accuracy of prediction was not expected as the gold standard method of measuring energy balance in those populations was likely to contain error. Because phenotypes predicted from milk MIR are available routinely from milk testing, longitudinal data analyses could be useful to identify animals of superior genetic merit for milk quality and robustness, as well as for monitoring changes in milk quality and robustness because of management, while simultaneously accounting for the genetic merit of the animals. These sources of information can be very valuable input parameters in decision-support tools for both milk producers and processors.
Genetic improvement is easy when selecting for one heritable and well-recorded trait at a time. Many industrialised national dairy herds have overall breeding indices that incorporate a range of traits balanced by their known or estimated economic value. Future breeding goals will contain more non-production traits and, in the context of this paper, traits associated with human health and cow robustness. The definition of Robustness and the traits used to predict it are currently fluid; however, the use of mid-infrared reflectance spectroscopic analysis of milk will help to create new phenotypes on a large scale that can be used to improve the human health characteristics of milk and the robustness of cows producing it. This paper describes the state-of-the-art in breeding strategies that include animal robustness (mainly energy status) and milk quality (as described by milk fatty acid profile), with particular emphasis on the research results generated by the FP7-funded RobustMilk project
There is evidence that epigenetic changes occur early in breast carcinogenesis. We hypothesized that early-life exposures associated with breast cancer would be associated with epigenetic alterations in breast tumors. In particular, we examined DNA methylation patterns in breast tumors in association with several early-life exposures in a population-based case–control study. Promoter methylation of E-cadherin, p16 and RAR-β2 genes was assessed in archived tumor blocks from 803 cases with real-time methylation-specific PCR. Unconditional logistic regression was used for case–case comparisons of those with and without promoter methylation. We found no differences in the prevalence of DNA methylation of the individual genes by age at menarche, age at first live birth and weight at age 20. In case–case comparisons of premenopausal breast cancer, lower birth weight was associated with increased likelihood of E-cadherin promoter methylation (OR = 2.79, 95% CI, 1.15–6.82, for ⩽2.5 v. 2.6–2.9 kg); higher adult height with RAR-β2 methylation (OR = 3.34, 95% CI, 1.19–9.39, for ⩾1.65 v. <1.60 m); and not having been breastfed with p16 methylation (OR = 2.75, 95% CI, 1.14–6.62). Among postmenopausal breast cancers, birth order was associated with increased likelihood of p16 promoter methylation. Being other than first in the birth order was inversely associated with likelihood of ⩾1 of the three genes being methylated for premenopausal breast cancers, but positively associated with methylation in postmenopausal women. These results suggest that there may be alterations in methylation associated with early-life exposures that persist into adulthood and affect breast cancer risk.