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J Dairy Sci. 2006 May;89(5):1740-52.

Optimization of dairy cattle breeding programs for different environments with genotype by environment interaction.

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Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Dairy cattle breeding organizations tend to sell semen to breeders operating in different environments and genotype x environment interaction may play a role. The objective of this study was to investigate optimization of dairy cattle breeding programs for 2 environments with genotype x environment interaction. Breeding strategies differed in 1) including 1 or 2 environments in the breeding goal, 2) running either 1 or 2 breeding programs, and 3) progeny testing bulls in 1 or 2 environments. Breeding strategies were evaluated on average genetic gain of both environments, which was predicted by using a pseudo-BLUP selection index model. When both environments were equally important and the genetic correlation was higher than 0.61, the highest average genetic gain was achieved with a single breeding program with progeny-testing all bulls in both environments. When the genetic correlation was lower than 0.61, it was optimal to have 2 environment-specific breeding programs progeny-testing an equal number of bulls in their own environment only. Breeding strategies differed by 2 to 12% in average genetic gain, when the genetic correlation ranged between 0.50 and 1.00. Ranking of breeding strategies, based on the highest average genetic gain, was relatively insensitive to heritability, number of progeny per bull, and the relative importance of both environments, but was very sensitive to selection intensity. With more intense selection, running 2 environment-specific breeding programs was optimal for genetic correlations up to 0.70-0.80, but this strategy was less appropriate for situations where 1 of the 2 environments had a relative importance less than 10 to 20%. Results of this study can be used as guidelines to optimize breeding programs when breeding dairy cattle for different parts of the world.

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