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J Dairy Sci. 1992 Oct;75(10):2902-11.

Optimal effective population size for the global population of black and white dairy cattle.

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  • 1Department of Agriculture, Melbourne, Australia.


The replacement of other black and white cattle strains by the North American Holstein breed, which itself is dominated by a small number of elite sires, has reduced the genetic diversity of the global population. Intense selection on a global basis leads to rapid genetic improvement but reduces effective population size. The optimal global effective population size was chosen to maximize the net present value of all future benefits from the breeding program. Two separate discount rates were used to reflect concerns about the long-term costs of small effective population size. This led to a higher optimal number of bull-sires than in past analyses. The optimum was sensitive to the magnitude of inbreeding depression and to the discount rates, but not to the variance caused by new mutations and the size of the world population. The genetic correlation between the breeding objectives of different AI studs controls the extent to which they all select the same sires of sons and, hence, affects the global effective population size. The prediction is made that different countries will select partially different sires, but genetically isolated strains will not reemerge. A better global breeding program is likely when selection of sires takes account of inbreeding depression and small genotype by environment interactions.

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