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Genomic prediction of bull fertility in US Jersey dairy cattle

Rezende, Fernanda M., Nani, Juan Pablo, Peñagaricano, Francisco
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.4 pp. 3230-3240
Holstein, Jersey, bulls, conception rate, dairy cattle, dairy industry, data collection, genes, genomics, male fertility, models, prediction, reproductive success, single nucleotide polymorphism, sires, United States
Service sire has a major effect on reproductive success in dairy cattle. Recent studies have reported accurate predictions for Holstein bull fertility using genomic data. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of genomic prediction of sire conception rate (SCR) in US Jersey cattle using alternative predictive models. Data set consisted of 1.5k Jersey bulls with SCR records and 95k SNP covering the entire genome. The analyses included the use of linear and Gaussian kernel-based models fitting either all the SNP or subsets of markers with presumed functional roles, such as SNP significantly associated with SCR or SNP located within or close to annotated genes. Model predictive ability was evaluated using 5-fold cross-validation with 10 replicates. The entire SNP set exhibited predictive correlations around 0.30. Interestingly, either SNP marginally associated with SCR or genic SNP achieved higher predictive abilities than their counterparts using random sets of SNP. Among alternative SNP subsets, Gaussian kernel models fitting significant SNP achieved the best performance with increases in predictive correlation up to 7% compared with the standard whole-genome approach. Notably, the use of a multi-breed reference population including the entire US Holstein SCR data set (11.5k bulls) allowed us to achieve predictive correlations up to 0.315, gaining 8% in accuracy compared with the standard model fitting a pure Jersey reference set. Overall, our findings indicate that genomic prediction of Jersey bull fertility is feasible. The use of Gaussian kernels fitting markers with relevant roles and the inclusion of Holstein records in the training set seem to be promising alternatives to the standard whole-genome approach. These results have the potential to help the dairy industry improve US Jersey sire fertility through accurate genome-guided decisions.