Effect of predictor traits on accuracy of genomic breeding values for feed intake based on a limited cow reference population
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The genomic breeding value accuracy of scarcely recorded traits is low because of the limited number of phenotypic observations. One solution to increase the breeding value accuracy is to use predictor traits. This study investigated the impact of recording additional phenotypic observations for predictor traits on reference and evaluated animals on the genomic breeding value accuracy for a scarcely recorded trait. The scarcely recorded trait was dry matter intake (DMI, n5869) and the predictor traits were fat–protein-corrected milk (FPCM, n51520) and live weight (LW, n51309). All phenotyped animals were genotyped and originated from research farms in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Multi-trait REML was used to simultaneously estimate variance components and breeding values for DMI using available predictors. In addition, analyses using only pedigree relationships were performed. Breeding value accuracy was assessed through cross-validation (CV) and prediction error variance (PEV). CV groups (n57) were defined by splitting animals across genetic lines and management groups within country. With no additional traits recorded for the evaluated animals, both CV- and PEV-based accuracies for DMI were substantially higher for genomic than for pedigree analyses (CV: max. 0.26 for pedigree and 0.33 for genomic analyses; PEV: max. 0.45 and 0.52, respectively). With additional traits available, the differences between pedigree and genomic accuracies diminished. With additional recording for FPCM, pedigree accuracies increased from 0.26 to 0.47 for CV and from 0.45 to 0.48 for PEV. Genomic accuracies increased from 0.33 to 0.50 for CV and from 0.52 to 0.53 for PEV. With additional recording for LW instead of FPCM, pedigree accuracies increased to 0.54 for CV and to 0.61 for PEV. Genomic accuracies increased to 0.57 for CV and to 0.60 for PEV. With both FPCM and LW available for evaluated animals, accuracy was highest (0.62 for CV and 0.61 for PEV in pedigree, and 0.63 for CV and 0.61 for PEV in genomic analyses). Recording predictor traits for only the reference population did not increase DMI breeding value accuracy. Recording predictor traits for both reference and evaluated animals significantly increased DMI breeding value accuracy and removed the bias observed when only reference animals had records. The benefit of using genomic instead of pedigree relationships was reduced when more predictor traits were used. Using predictor traits may be an inexpensive way to significantly increase the accuracy and remove the bias of (genomic) breeding values of scarcely recorded traits such as feed intake.
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