The benefits and perils of import in small cattle breeding programs

Jana Obsteter*, Janez Jenko, Ivan Pocrnic, Gregor Gorjanc

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract / Description of output

Small breeding programs are limited in achieving competitive genetic gain and prone to high rates of inbreeding. Thus, they often import genetic material to increase genetic gain and to limit the loss of genetic variability. However, the benefit of import depends on the strength of genotype by environment interaction. It also also diminishes the relevance of domestic selection and the use of domestic breeding animals. Introduction of genomic selection has potentially execerbated this issue, but is also opening the potential for smaller breeding program. The aim of this paper was to determine when and to what extent do small breeding programs benefit from import. We simulated two cattle breeding programs differing in selection parameters representing a large foreign and a small domestic breeding program that differ in the initial genetic mean and annual genetic gain. We evaluated a control scenario without the use of foreign sires in the domestic breeding program and 20 scenarios that varied the percentage of domestic dams mated with foreign sires, the genetic correlation between the breeding programs (0.8 or 0.9), and the time of implementing genomic selection in the domestic compared to the foreign breeding program (concurrently or with a 10-year delay). We compared the scenarios based on the genetic gain and genic standard deviation. Finally, we partitioned breeding values and genetic trends of the scenarios to quantify the contribution of domestic selection and import to the domestic genetic gain. The simulation revealed that when both breeding programs implemented genomic selection simultaneously, the use of foreign sires increased domestic genetic gain only when genetic correlation was 0.9. In contrast, when the domestic breeding program implemented genomic selection with a 10-year delay, genetic correlation of 0.8 sufficed for a positive impact of import. In that scenario, domestic genetic gain increased with the increasing use of foreign sires but with a diminishing return. The partitioning analysis revealed that the contribution of import expectedly increased with the increased use of foreign sires. However, the increase did not depend on the genetic correlation and was not proportional to the increase in domestic genetic gain. This means that a small breeding program could be overly relying on import with diminishing returns for the genetic gain and marginal benefit for the genetic variability.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherbioRxiv, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Dec 2022


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