Direct multitrait selection realizes the highest genetic response for ratio traits

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For a number of traits the phenotype considered to be the goal trait is a combination of 2 or more traits, like methane (CH4) emission (CH4/kg of milk). Direct selection on CH4 emission defined as a ratio is problematic, because it is uncertain whether the improvement comes from an improvement in milk yield, a decrease in CH4 emission or both. The goal was to test different strategies on selecting for 2 antagonistic traits– improving milk yield while decreasing methane emissions. The hypothesis was that to maximize genetic gain for a ratio trait, the best approach is to select directly for the component traits rather than using a ratio trait or a trait where 1 trait is corrected for the other as the selection criteria. Stochastic simulation was used to mimic a dairy cattle population. Three scenarios were tested, which differed in selection criteria but all selecting for increased milk yield: 1) selection based on a multitrait approach using the correlation structure between the 2 traits, 2) the ratio of methane to milk and 3) gross methane phenotypi-cally corrected for milk. Four correlation sets were tested in all scenarios, to access robustness of the results. An average genetic gain of 66 kg of milk per yr was obtained in all scenarios, but scenario 1 had the best response for decreased methane emissions, with a genetic gain of 24.8 l/yr, while scenarios 2 and 3 had genetic gains of 27.1 and 27.3 kg/yr. The results found were persistent across correlation sets. These results confirm the hypothesis that to obtain the highest genetic gain a multitrait selection is a better approach than selecting for the ratio directly. The results are exemplified for a methane and milk scenario but can be generalized to other situations where combined traits need to be improved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Pages (from-to)1921-1925
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Dairy cattle, Methane, Ratio traits, Stochastic simulation

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