GENETIC ARCHITECTURE OF WELFARE INDICATORS AND IMPLEMENTATION OF SINGLE-STEP GENOMIC PREDICTIONS IN BEEF CATTLE POPULATIONS
Breeding for improved animal welfare is paramount for increasing the long-term sustainability of the animal food industry. In this context, the main objectives of this dissertation were to understand the genetic and genomic background of welfare indicators in livestock and evaluate the feasibility of single-step Genomic Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (ssGBLUP) for performing genomic selection in beef cattle. This dissertation includes five studies. First, we aimed to test and identify an optimal ssGBLUP scenario for crossbreeding schemes. We simulated multiple populations differing based on the genetic background of the trait, and then we tested alternative models, such as multiple-trait weighted ssGBLUP. Even though more elaborated scenarios were evaluated, a single-trait ssGBLUP approach was recommended when genetic correlation across populations were higher than 0.70. The goal of the second study was to identify genomic regions controlling behavior traits that are conserved across livestock species. We systematically reviewed genomic regions associated with behavioral indicators in beef and dairy cattle, pigs, and sheep. The genomic regions identified in this study were located in genes previously reported controlling human behavioral, neural, and mental disorders. In the third study we used a large dataset (675,678 records) from North American Angus cattle to investigate the genetic background of temperament, a behavioral indicator, recorded on one-year-old calves, and provide the models and protocols for implementing genomic selection. We reported a heritability estimate equal to 0.38 for yearling temperament, and it was, in general, genetically favorably correlated with other productivity and fertility traits. Candidate genomic regions controlling yearling temperament were also identified. The fourth study was based on temperament recorded on North American Angus cows from 2 to 15 years of age (797,187 records). The goal was to understand the genetic and genomic background of temperament across the animal’s lifetime. By fitting a random regression model, we observed that temperament is highly genetically correlated across time. However, animals have differential learning and behavioral plasticity (LBP; changes of the phenotype overtime), although the LBP heritability is low. In our last study we evaluated foot scores (foot angle, FA; and claw set, CS) in American (US) and Australian (AU) Angus cattle aiming to assess the genetic and genomic background of foot scores and investigate the feasibility of performing an across-country genomic evaluation (~1.15 million animals genotyped). Foot scores are heritable (heritability from 0.22 to 0.27), and genotype-by-environment interaction was observed between US and AU Angus populations (genetic correlation equal to 0.61 for FA and 0.76 for CS). An across-country genomic prediction outperformed within-country evaluations in terms of predictivity ability (bias, dispersion, and validation accuracy) and theoretical accuracies. We have also identified genes associated with FA and CS previously reported in human’s bone structure and repair mechanism. In conclusion, this dissertation presents a comprehensive genetic and genomic characterization of welfare indicators (temperament and foot scores) in (inter)national livestock populations.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Animal Sciences
- West Lafayette