Estimation and consequences of direct-maternal genetic and environmental covariances in models for genetic evaluation in broilers

Hélène Romé*, Thinh T. Chu, Danye Marois, Chyong Huoy Huang, Per Madsen, Just Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Maternal effects influence juvenile traits such as body weight and early growth in broilers. Ignoring significant maternal effects leads to reduced accuracy and inflated predicted breeding values. Including genetic and environmental direct-maternal covariances into prediction models in broilers can increase the accuracy and limit inflation of predicted breeding values better than simply adding maternal effects to the model. To test this hypothesis, we applied a model accounting for direct-maternal genetic covariance and direct-maternal environmental covariance to estimate breeding values. Results: This model, and simplified versions of it, were tested using simulated broiler populations and then was applied to a large broiler population for validation. The real population analyzed consisted of a commercial line of broilers, for which body weight at a common slaughter age was recorded for 41 selection rounds. The direct-maternal genetic covariance was negative whereas the direct-maternal environmental covariance was positive. Simulated populations were created to mimic the real population. The predictive ability of the models was assessed by cross-validation, where the validation birds were all from the last five selection rounds. Accuracy of prediction was defined as the correlation between the predicted breeding values estimated without the phenotypic records of the validation population and a predictor. The predictors were the breeding values estimated using all the phenotypic information and the phenotypes corrected for the fixed effects, and for the simulated data, the true breeding values. In the real data, adding the environmental covariance, with or without also adding the genetic covariance, increased the accuracy, or reduced deflation of breeding values compared with a model not including dam–offspring covariance. Nevertheless, in the simulated data, reduction in the inflation of breeding values was possible and was associated with a gain in accuracy of up to 6% compared with a model not including both forms of direct-maternal covariance. Conclusions: In this paper, we propose a simple approach to estimate the environmental direct-maternal covariance using standard software for REML analysis. The genetic covariance between dam and offspring was negative whereas the corresponding environmental covariance was positive. Considering both covariances in models for genetic evaluation increased the accuracy of predicted breeding values.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Volume55
Issue1
Number of pages15
ISSN0999-193X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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