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Poult Sci. 2010 Sep;89(9):1842-9. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-00730.

Estimation of heritability and breeding values for early egg production in laying hens from pooled data.

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Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, the Netherlands.


Under commercial conditions, data on egg production in laying hens are usually collected per cage rather than individually. In current breeding programs, genetic evaluations are, however, based on individually recorded egg production. Because commercial flocks are not maintained in single cages, this environmental difference between the breeding and commercial setting may result in a genotype x environment interaction. This study was aimed at estimating genetic parameters and predicting estimated breeding values for early egg production of laying hens by using pooled data (i.e., data from multiple bird cages) from pedigree birds housed in 4-bird cages. Using cage records, we compared 2 different methods of handling pooled data: cage sums and the assignment of cage means to individual birds, referred to as the approximate method. The 2 methods were compared by using cross-validation. Data from 3 purebred White Leghorn layer lines were used. Estimated heritability for early egg production was 0.36 when cage sums were used and 0.30 with the approximate method. The correlation of estimated breeding values between the cage sums method and the approximate method was 0.88. Cross-validation showed that the use of cage sums led to better predictions of missing phenotypes compared with the approximate method. The results of the research demonstrate that pooled data can be used in the genetic evaluation of laying hens and show that using directly pooled records (e.g., cage sums) gives better results than assigning group means to the birds of the group, thus simulating individual records.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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