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Combined analysis of group recorded feed intake and individually recorded body weight and litter size in mink

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In the mink industry, feed costs are the largest variable expense and breeding for feed efficient animals is warranted. Implementation of selection for feed efficiency must consider the relationships between feed efficiency and the current selection traits BW and litter size. Often, feed intake (FI) is recorded on a cage with a male and a female and there is sexual dimorphism that needs to be accounted for. Study aims were to (1) model group recorded FI accounting for sexual dimorphism, (2) derive genetic residual feed intake (RFI) as a measure of feed efficiency, (3) examine the relationship between feed efficiency and BW in males (BWM) and females (BWF) and litter size at day 21 after whelping (LS21) in Danish brown mink and (4) investigate direct and correlated response to selection on each trait of interest. Feed intake records from 9574 cages, BW records on 16 782 males and 16 875 females and LS21 records on 6446 yearling females were used for analysis. Genetic parameters for FI, BWM, BWF and LS21 were obtained using a multivariate animal model, yielding sex-specific additive genetic variances for FI and BW to account for sexual dimorphism. The analysis was performed in a Bayesian setting using Gibbs sampling, and genetic RFI was obtained from the conditional distribution of FI given BW using genetic regression coefficients. Responses to single trait selection were defined as the posterior distribution of genetic superiority of the top 10% of animals after conditioning on the genetic trends. The heritabilities ranged from 0.13 for RFI in females and LS21 to 0.59 for BWF. Genetic correlations between BW in both sexes and LS21 and FI in both sexes were unfavorable, and single trait selection on BW in either sex showed increased FI in both sexes and reduced litter size. Due to the definition of RFI and high genetic correlation between BWM and BWF, selection on RFI did not significantly alter BW. In addition, selection on RFI in either sex did not affect LS21. Genetic correlation between sexes for FI and BW was high but significantly lower than unity. The high correlations across sex allowed for selection on standardized averages of animals' breeding values (BVs) for RFI, FI and BW, which yielded selection responses approximately equal to the responses obtained using the sex-specific BVs. The results illustrate the possibility of selecting against RFI in mink with no negative effects on BW and litter size.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal : an international journal of animal bioscience
Pages (from-to)1793-1801
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

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