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Genomic prediction of continuous and binary fertility traits of females in a composite beef cattle breed

S. Toghiani, E. Hay, P. Sumreddee, T. W. Geary, R. Rekaya, A. J. Roberts
Journal of animal science 2017 v.95 no.11 pp. 4787-4795
Charolais, Red Angus, Tarentaise, animal fertility, beef cattle, calving, days open, female fertility, genes, genetic correlation, genomics, genotyping, heifers, heritability, parity (reproduction), pedigree, prediction, pregnancy, puberty, reproductive traits, statistical models
Reproduction efficiency is a major factor in the profitability of the beef cattle industry. Genomic selection (GS) is a promising tool that may improve the predictive accuracy and genetic gain of fertility traits. There is a wide range of traits used to measure fertility in dairy and beef cattle including continuous (days open), discrete (pregnancy status), and count (number of inseminations) responses. In this study, a joint analysis of age of puberty (AOP), age at first calving (AOC), and the heifer pregnancy status (HPS) was performed. Data used in this study consisted of records from 1,365 Composite Gene Combination (CGC; 50% Red Angus, 25% Charolais, 25% Tarentaise) first parity females born between 2002 and 2011. The pedigree file included 5,374 animals. A total of 3,902 animals were genotyped with different density SNP chips (3K to 50K SNP). Animals genotyped with low-density arrays were imputed to higher density (BovineSNP50 BeadChip) using FImpute. Data were analyzed using univariate and multivariate classical quantitative models (pedigree based) and univariate genomic approaches. For the latter, 3 different Bayesian methods (BayesA, BayesB, and BayesCπ) were implemented and compared. Estimates of heritabilities using univariate and multivariate analyses based on pedigree relationships ranged between 0.03 (for AOC) to 0.2 (AOP). Heritability of pregnancy status was 0.15 and 0.09 using the univariate and multivariate analyses, respectively. Genetic correlation between pregnancy status and the other 2 traits was low being 0.08 with age at puberty and -0.10 with age at first calving. Heritability estimates were slightly higher using genomic rather than average additive relationships. The accuracy of genomic prediction was similar across the 3 Bayesian methods with higher accuracies for age of puberty than the age at first calving likely due to the higher heritability of the former. The prediction of the binary pregnancy status measured using the area under the curve increased by 27% to 29% compared to a random classifier. Due to the small size of the data, all estimates have large posterior standard deviations and results should be interpreted with caution.