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J. Dairy Sci. 2007. 90:2434-2441. doi:10.3168/jds.2006-704
2007 American Dairy Science Association

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Genetic Evaluations for Mixed-Breed Populations

P. M. VanRaden1, M. E. Tooker, J. B. Cole, G. R. Wiggans and J. H. Megonigal, Jr.

Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

1 Corresponding author: paul{at}aipl.arsusda.gov

An all-breed animal model was developed for routine genetic evaluations of US dairy cattle. Data sets from individual breeds were combined, and records from crossbred cows were included. About 1% of recent cows were first-generation crossbreds. The numbers of cows with records since 1960 ranged from 10 to 22 million for the 6 traits analyzed, which were milk, fat, protein, somatic cell score, productive life, and daughter pregnancy rate. Programs were modified to account for general heterosis, to group unknown parents separately by breed, to adjust variances separately by breed, and to adjust data to a 36-mo age equivalent instead of a mature equivalent. Convergence rate of the all-breed model was similar to that of the previous within-breed animal model. Estimated breed differences were similar to those obtained previously from phenotypic breed means or from studies of crossbred cows and their herd-mates. Genetic evaluations from the all-breed and within-breed systems had high correlations: >0.99 for recent Holsteins and slightly <0.99 for other breeds. Predicted transmitting abilities will be converted back to the within-breed bases for purebred animals and to the breed of sire base for crossbred animals so that most purebred breeders will not be affected by the change to a multibreed model. Evaluations of crossbred animals from the multibreed model can include accurate information for both parents. Reliabilities also increase for purebred relatives because of the additional crossbred records and in mixed breed herds because cows of other breeds are additional contemporaries. Another benefit of the multibreed model is that breed differences are routinely estimated and updated. More research and education may be needed on using the new evaluations in the design of breeding programs. Implementation is expected in May 2007.

Key Words: genetic evaluation multibreed cross-breeding

Copyright 2007 by the American Dairy Science Association.