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Selection for uniformity in livestock by exploiting genetic heterogeneity of residual variance

By Han A Mulder, Piter Bijma and William G Hill


In some situations, it is worthwhile to change not only the mean, but also the variability of traits by selection. Genetic variation in residual variance may be utilised to improve uniformity in livestock populations by selection. The objective was to investigate the effects of genetic parameters, breeding goal, number of progeny per sire and breeding scheme on selection responses in mean and variance when applying index selection. Genetic parameters were obtained from the literature. Economic values for the mean and variance were derived for some standard non-linear profit equations, e.g. for traits with an intermediate optimum. The economic value of variance was in most situations negative, indicating that selection for reduced variance increases profit. Predicted responses in residual variance after one generation of selection were large, in some cases when the number of progeny per sire was at least 50, by more than 10% of the current residual variance. Progeny testing schemes were more efficient than sib-testing schemes in decreasing residual variance. With optimum traits, selection pressure shifts gradually from the mean to the variance when approaching the optimum. Genetic improvement of uniformity is particularly interesting for traits where the current population mean is near an intermediate optimum

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