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Genetics. 2007 May;176(1):489-99. Epub 2007 Apr 3.

Genetic improvement of traits affected by interactions among individuals: Sib selection schemes.

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Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Livestock populations are usually kept in groups. As a consequence, social interactions among individuals affect productivity, health, and welfare. Current selection methods (individual selection), however, ignore those interactions and yield suboptimal or in some cases even negative responses. In principle, selection between groups instead of individuals offers a solution, but has rarely been adopted in practice for two reasons. First, the relationship between group selection theory and common animal breeding concepts, such as the accuracy of selection, is unclear. Second, application of group selection requires keeping selection candidates in groups, which is often undesirable in practice. This work has two objectives. First, we derive expressions for the accuracy of individual and group selection, which provides a measurement of quality for those methods. Second, we investigate the opportunity to improve traits affected by interactions by using information on relatives kept in family groups, while keeping selection candidates individually. The accuracy of selection based on relatives is shown to be an analogy of the classical expression for traits not affected by interactions. Our results show that selection based on relatives offers good opportunities for effective genetic improvement of traits affected by interactions.

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