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Gene by environment interactions for production traits in Australian dairy cattle

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Journal of Dairy Science ; Volume 92. p. 4008–4017. 2009

Lillehammer, Marie; Hayes, Ben J.; Meuwissen, Theo; Goddard, Mike E.

Dairy farming is carried out under a wide range of production environments, including large variations in the level of feeding. Although reranking of dairy sires based on the level of feeding of their daughters has been reported, detecting the genetic mutations that cause this genotype by environment interaction has not been previously attempted. In our experiment to find genetic markers for such mutations, we selected 388 Holstein bulls from the Australian dairy bull population and genotyped them for 9,919 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Production data, consisting of first-lactation test-day records for milk yield, fat yield, protein yield, protein percentage, and fat percentage, from the daughters of the genotyped bulls were used to estimate the effect of each SNP, which was modeled as a regression on herd mean test-day yield, where herd mean test-day yield is a descriptor of the environment. Data were analyzed with 4 models; in 2 models, daughter records were analyzed directly, with and without taking sire relationships into account. With the other 2 models, sire reaction norms for each trait were calculated and marker effects on the sire reaction norms were estimated with and without taking sire relationships into account. The results showed that using daughter records directly and accounting for sire relationships was necessary to obtain high power and to limit the number of false positives. With this approach, SNP with significant effects were found for all traits. Log transformation of the data did not affect the power of gene detection. The significant markers were categorized according to their joint effects on production and environmental sensitivity. Potential gene candidates and application of the markers is discussed. About one-third of the significant markers affect intercept and slope in opposite directions, and some of these facilitate marker-assisted selection for robustness.

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