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Across-country genomic prediction of bull fertility in Jersey dairy cattle

journal contribution
posted on 12.11.2020, 04:49 by Fernanda M Rezende, Mekonnen Haile-Mariam, Jennie Pryce, Francisco Peñagaricano
The use of information across populations is an attractive approach to increase the accuracy of genomic predictions for numerically small breeds and traits that are time-consuming and difficult to measure, such as male fertility in cattle. This study was conducted to evaluate genomic prediction of Jersey bull fertility using an across-country reference population combining records from the United States and Australia. The data set consisted of 1,570 US Jersey bulls with sire conception rate (SCR) records, 603 Australian Jersey bulls with semen fertility value (SFV) records and SNP genotypes for roughly 90,000 loci. Both SCR and SFV are evaluations of service sire fertility based on cow field data, and both are intended as phenotypic evaluations because the estimates include genetic and nongenetic effects. Within- and across-country genomic predictions were evaluated using univariate and bivariate genomic best linear unbiased prediction models. Predictive ability was assessed in 5-fold cross-validation using the correlation between observed and predicted fertility values and mean squared error of prediction. Within-country genomic predictions exhibited predictive correlations of around 0.28 and 0.02 for the United States and Australia, respectively. The Australian Jersey population is genetically diverse and small in size, so careful selection of the reference population by including only closely related animals (e.g., excluding New Zealand bulls, which is a less-related population) increased the predictive correlations up to 0.20. Notably, the use of bivariate models fitting all US Jersey records and the optimized Australian population resulted in predictive correlations around of 0.24 for SFV values, which is a relative increase in predictive ability of 20%. Conversely, for predicting SCR values, the use of an across-country reference population did not outperform the standard approach using pure US Jersey reference data set. Our findings indicate that genomic prediction of male fertility in dairy cattle is feasible, and the use of an across-country reference population would be beneficial when local populations are small and genetically diverse.


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science











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