Factors that cause genotype by environment interaction and use of a multiple-trait herd-cluster model for milk yield of Holstein cattle from Brazil and Colombia
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Descriptive herd variables (DVHE) were used to explain genotype by environment interactions (G x E) for milk yield (MY) in Brazilian and Colombian production environments and to develop a herd-cluster model to estimate covariance components and genetic parameters for each herd environment group. Data consisted of 180,522 lactation records of 94,558 Holstein cows from 937 Brazilian and 400 Colombian herds. Herds in both countries were jointly grouped in thirds according to 8 DVHE: production level, phenotypic variability, age at first calving, calving interval, percentage of imported semen, lactation length, and herd size. For each DVHE, REML bivariate animal model analyses were used to estimate genetic correlations for MY between upper and lower thirds of the data. Based on estimates of genetic correlations, weights were assigned to each DVHE to group herds in a cluster analysis using the FASTCLUS procedure in SAS. Three clusters were defined, and genetic and residual variance components were heterogeneous among herd clusters. Estimates of heritability in clusters 1 and 3 were 0.28 and 0.29, respectively, but the estimate was larger (0.39) in Cluster 2. The genetic correlations of MY from different clusters ranged from 0.89 to 0.97. The herd-cluster model based on DVHE properly takes into account G x E by grouping similar environments accordingly and seems to be an alternative to simply considering country borders to distinguish between environments.
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