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How genomic selection has increased rates of genetic gain and inbreeding in the Australian national herd, genomic information nucleus, and bulls

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-30, 00:23 authored by Beth ScottBeth Scott, M Haile-Mariam, Benjamin CocksBenjamin Cocks, Jennie PryceJennie Pryce
Genomic selection has been commonly used for selection for over a decade. In this time, the rate of genetic gain has more than doubled in some countries, while inbreeding per year has also increased. Inbreeding can result in a loss of genetic diversity, decreased long-term response to selection, reduced animal performance and ultimately, decreased farm profitability. We quantified and compared changes in genetic gain and diversity resulting from genomic selection in Australian Holstein and Jersey cattle populations. To increase the accuracy of genomic selection, Australia has had a female genomic reference population since 2013, specifically designed to be representative of commercial populations and thus including both Holstein and Jersey cows. Herds that kept excellent health and fertility data were invited to join this population and most their animals were genotyped. In both breeds, the rate of genetic gain and inbreeding was greatest in bulls, and then the female genomic reference population, and finally the wider national herd. When comparing pre- and postgenomic selection, the rates of genetic gain for the national economic index has increased by ~160% in Holstein females and ~100% in Jersey females. This has been accompanied by doubling of the rates of inbreeding in female populations, and the rate of inbreeding has increased several fold in Holstein bulls since the widespread use of genomic selection. Where cow genotype data were available to perform a more accurate genomic analysis, greater rates of pedigree and genomic inbreeding were observed, indicating actual inbreeding levels could be underestimated in the national population due to gaps in pedigrees. Based on current rates of genetic gain, the female reference population is progressing ahead of the national herd and could be used to infer and track the future inbreeding and genetic trends of the national herds.


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science






(p. 11832-11849)





Rights Statement

© 2021, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

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