Research Article

Genetic correlation between heifer pregnancy and scrotal circumference measured at 15 and 18 months of age in Nellore cattle

Published: October 06, 2006
Genet. Mol. Res. 5 (4) : 569-580

Abstract

Data of pregnancy diagnosis from 24,945 Nellore heifers, raised under tropical conditions in Brazil and exposed to breeding at about 14 months of age, were analyzed simultaneously with 13,742 (analysis 1), 36,091 (analysis 2), 8,405 (analysis 3), and 8,405 (analysis 4) scrotal circumference (SC) records of contemporary young bulls in order to estimate heritability (h2) for yearling heifer pregnancy (HP) and for SC measured at around 15 (SC15) and 18 (SC18) months of age and to estimate genetic correlation between HP and SC15 (SC18). Heifer pregnancy was considered as a categorical trait, with the value 1 (success) assigned to heifers that were detected as pregnant by rectal palpation approximately 60 days after the end of a 90-day breeding season and the value 0 (failure) otherwise. In analyses 1 and 3, SC was measured at around 15 months of age and in analysis 2 and 4 it was measured at around 18 months of age. Only 8,848 animals from datasets 1 and 2 were common in both files, which means the same animals measured at different ages. Datasets used in analyses 3 and 4 included the same animals, measured at 15 and at 18 months of age, respectively. Heritability estimates for HP were similar in all analyses, with values ranging from 0.66 ± 0.08 to 0.67 ± 0.008. For SC15, the estimates were 0.57 ± 0.05 in analysis 1 and 0.60 ± 0.07 in analysis 3. For SC18, the estimates were 0.53 ± 0.03 in analysis 2 and 0.64 ± 0.06 in analysis 4. The estimates of genetic correlation between HP and SC15 were 0.15 ± 0.10 in analysis 1 and 0.11 ± 0.11 in analysis 3. For the correlation between HP and SC18, the values were 0.27 ± 0.10 in analysis 2 and 0.16 ± 0.11 in analysis 4. Based on standard errors and confidence intervals, the best heritability and genetic correlation estimates were obtained from analysis 2, which included more data and a better pedigree structure. Pearson correlation between HP and SC breeding values was similar to the genetic correlation estimates obtained from two-trait models, when all animals in the pedigree file were considered for its calculation. If only sires were considered for the calculation, Pearson correlation was higher but the pattern was the same as from two-trait analyses. The high heritability estimates obtained in the present study confirm that expected progeny difference (EPD) for HP can be used to select bulls for the production of precocious daughters and that the low genetic correlation between SC and HP indicates a greater efficacy of selection based on heifer pregnancy EPD than of selection based on scrotal circumference EPD. The results of the present study, although not conclusive, indicate that SC measured at around SC18 would have a higher genetic correlation with HP than would SC measured at around SC15.

Data of pregnancy diagnosis from 24,945 Nellore heifers, raised under tropical conditions in Brazil and exposed to breeding at about 14 months of age, were analyzed simultaneously with 13,742 (analysis 1), 36,091 (analysis 2), 8,405 (analysis 3), and 8,405 (analysis 4) scrotal circumference (SC) records of contemporary young bulls in order to estimate heritability (h2) for yearling heifer pregnancy (HP) and for SC measured at around 15 (SC15) and 18 (SC18) months of age and to estimate genetic correlation between HP and SC15 (SC18). Heifer pregnancy was considered as a categorical trait, with the value 1 (success) assigned to heifers that were detected as pregnant by rectal palpation approximately 60 days after the end of a 90-day breeding season and the value 0 (failure) otherwise. In analyses 1 and 3, SC was measured at around 15 months of age and in analysis 2 and 4 it was measured at around 18 months of age. Only 8,848 animals from datasets 1 and 2 were common in both files, which means the same animals measured at different ages. Datasets used in analyses 3 and 4 included the same animals, measured at 15 and at 18 months of age, respectively. Heritability estimates for HP were similar in all analyses, with values ranging from 0.66 ± 0.08 to 0.67 ± 0.008. For SC15, the estimates were 0.57 ± 0.05 in analysis 1 and 0.60 ± 0.07 in analysis 3. For SC18, the estimates were 0.53 ± 0.03 in analysis 2 and 0.64 ± 0.06 in analysis 4. The estimates of genetic correlation between HP and SC15 were 0.15 ± 0.10 in analysis 1 and 0.11 ± 0.11 in analysis 3. For the correlation between HP and SC18, the values were 0.27 ± 0.10 in analysis 2 and 0.16 ± 0.11 in analysis 4. Based on standard errors and confidence intervals, the best heritability and genetic correlation estimates were obtained from analysis 2, which included more data and a better pedigree structure. Pearson correlation between HP and SC breeding values was similar to the genetic correlation estimates obtained from two-trait models, when all animals in the pedigree file were considered for its calculation. If only sires were considered for the calculation, Pearson correlation was higher but the pattern was the same as from two-trait analyses. The high heritability estimates obtained in the present study confirm that expected progeny difference (EPD) for HP can be used to select bulls for the production of precocious daughters and that the low genetic correlation between SC and HP indicates a greater efficacy of selection based on heifer pregnancy EPD than of selection based on scrotal circumference EPD. The results of the present study, although not conclusive, indicate that SC measured at around SC18 would have a higher genetic correlation with HP than would SC measured at around SC15.

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