Keeping dairy cows in grassland systems relies on detailed analyses of genetic resistance against endoparasite infections, including between- and within-breed genetic evaluations. The objectives of this study were (1) to compare different Black and White dairy cattle selection lines for endoparasite infections and (2) the estimation of genetic (co)variance components for endoparasite and test-day milk production traits within the Black and White cattle population. A total of 2,006 fecal samples were taken during 2 farm visits in summer and autumn 2015 from 1,166 cows kept in 17 small- and medium-scale organic and conventional German grassland farms. Fecal egg counts were determined for gastrointestinal nematodes (FEC-GIN) and flukes (FEC-FLU), and fecal larvae counts for the bovine lungworm Dictyocaulus viviparus (FLC-DV). The lowest values for gastrointestinal nematode infections were identified for genetic lines adopted to pasture-based production systems, especially selection lines from New Zealand. Heritabilities were low for FEC-GIN (0.05-0.06 ± 0.04) and FLC-DV (0.05 ± 0.04), but moderate for FEC-FLU (0.33 ± 0.06). Almost identical heritabilities were estimated for different endoparasite trait transformations (log-transformation, square root). The genetic correlation between FEC-GIN and FLC-DV was 1.00 ± 0.60, slightly negative between FEC-GIN and FEC-FLU (-0.10 ± 0.27), and close to zero between FLC-DV and FEC-FLU (0.03 ± 0.30). Random regression test-day models on a continuous time scale [days in milk (DIM)] were applied to estimate genetic relationships between endoparasite and longitudinal test-day production traits. Genetic correlations were negative between FEC-GIN and milk yield (MY) until DIM 85, and between FEC-FLU and MY until DIM 215. Genetic correlations between FLC-DV and MY were negative throughout lactation, indicating improved disease resistance for high-productivity cows. Genetic relationships between FEC-GIN and FEC-FLU with milk protein content were negative for all DIM. Apart from the very early and very late lactation stage, genetic correlations between FEC-GIN and milk fat content were negative, whereas they were positive for FEC-FLU. Genetic correlations between FEC-GIN and somatic cell score were positive, indicating similar genetic mechanisms for susceptibility to udder and endoparasite infections. The moderate heritabilities for FEC-FLU suggest inclusion of FEC-FLU into overall organic dairy cattle breeding goals to achieve long-term selection response for disease resistance.
Background Gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN), liver flukes ( Fasciola hepatica ) and bovine lungworms ( Dictyocaulus viviparus ) are the most important parasitic agents in pastured dairy cattle. Endoparasite infections are associated with reduced milk production and detrimental impacts on female fertility, contributing to economic losses in affected farms. In quantitative-genetic studies, the heritabilities for GIN and F. hepatica were moderate, encouraging studies on genomic scales. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) based on dense single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) marker panels allow exploration of the underlying genomic architecture of complex disease traits. The current GWAS combined the identification of potential candidate genes with pathway analyses to obtain deeper insights into bovine immune response and the mechanisms of resistance against endoparasite infections. Results A 2-step approach was applied to infer genome-wide associations in an endangered dual-purpose cattle subpopulation [Deutsches Schwarzbuntes Niederungsrind (DSN)] with a limited number of phenotypic records. First, endoparasite traits from a population of 1166 Black and White dairy cows [including Holstein Friesian (HF) and DSN] naturally infected with GIN, F. hepatica and D. viviparus were precorrected for fixed effects using linear mixed models. Afterwards, the precorrected phenotypes were the dependent traits (rFEC-GIN, rFEC-FH, and rFLC-DV) in GWAS based on 423,654 SNPs from 148 DSN cows. We identified 44 SNPs above the genome-wide significance threshold ( p Bonf = 4.47 × 10 − 7 ), and 145 associations surpassed the chromosome-wide significance threshold (range: 7.47 × 10 − 6 on BTA 1 to 2.18 × 10 − 5 on BTA 28). The associated SNPs identified were annotated to 23 candidate genes. The DAVID analysis inferred four pathways as being related to immune response mechanisms or involved in host-parasite interactions. SNP effect correlations considering specific chromosome segments indicate that breeding for resistance to GIN or F. hepatica as measured by fecal egg counts is genetically associated with a higher risk for udder infections. Conclusions We detected a large number of loci with small to moderate effects for endoparasite resistance. The potential candidate genes regulating resistance identified were pathogen-specific. Genetic antagonistic associations between disease resistance and productivity were specific for specific chromosome segments. The 2-step approach was a valid methodological approach to infer genetic mechanisms in an endangered breed with a limited number of phenotypic records. Electronic supplementary material The online version...
Background Specific adaptive features including disease resistance and growth abilities in harsh environments are attributed to indigenous cattle breeds of Benin, but these breeds are endangered due to crossbreeding. So far, there is a lack of systematic trait recording, being the basis for breed characterizations, and for structured breeding program designs aiming on conservation. Bridging this gap, own phenotyping for morphological traits considered measurements for height at withers (HAW), sacrum height (SH), heart girth (HG), hip width (HW), body length (BL) and ear length (EL), including 449 cattle from the four indigenous Benin breeds Lagune, Somba, Borgou and Pabli. In order to utilize recent genomic tools for breed characterizations and genetic evaluations, phenotypes for novel traits were merged with high-density SNP marker data. Multi-breed genetic parameter estimations and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for the six morphometric traits were carried out. Continuatively, we aimed on inferring genomic regions and functional loci potentially associated with conformation, carcass and adaptive traits. Results SNP-based heritability estimates for the morphometric traits ranged between 0.46 ± 0.14 (HG) and 0.74 ± 0.13 (HW). Phenotypic and genetic correlations ranged from 0.25 ± 0.05 (HW-BL) to 0.89 ± 0.01 (HAW-SH), and from 0.14 ± 0.10 (HW-BL) to 0.85 ± 0.02 (HAW-SH), respectively. Three genome-wide and 25 chromosome-wide significant SNP positioned on different chromosomes were detected, located in very close chromosomal distance (±25 kb) to 15 genes (or located within the genes). The genes PIK3R6 and PIK3R1 showed direct functional associations with height and body size. We inferred the potential candidate genes VEPH1, CNTNAP5, GYPC for conformation, growth and carcass traits including body weight and body fat deposition. According to their functional annotations, detected potential candidate genes were associated with stress or immune response (genes PTAFR, PBRM1, ADAMTS12) and with feed efficiency (genes MEGF11 SLC16A4, CCDC117). Conclusions Accurate measurements contributed to large SNP heritabilities for some morphological traits, even for a small mixed-breed sample size. Multi-breed GWAS detected different loci associated with conformation or carcass traits. The identified potential candidate genes for immune response or feed efficiency indicators reflect the evolutionary development and adaptability features of the breeds.
BackgroundIntensified selection of polled individuals has recently gained importance in predominantly horned dairy cattle breeds as an alternative to routine dehorning. The status quo of the current polled breeding pool of genetically-closely related artificial insemination sires with lower breeding values for performance traits raises questions regarding the effects of intensified selection based on this founder pool.MethodsWe developed a stochastic simulation framework that combines the stochastic simulation software QMSim and a self-designed R program named QUALsim that acts as an external extension. Two traits were simulated in a dairy cattle population for 25 generations: one quantitative (QMSim) and one qualitative trait with Mendelian inheritance (i.e. polledness, QUALsim). The assignment scheme for qualitative trait genotypes initiated realistic initial breeding situations regarding allele frequencies, true breeding values for the quantitative trait and genetic relatedness. Intensified selection for polled cattle was achieved using an approach that weights estimated breeding values in the animal best linear unbiased prediction model for the quantitative trait depending on genotypes or phenotypes for the polled trait with a user-defined weighting factor.ResultsSelection response for the polled trait was highest in the selection scheme based on genotypes. Selection based on phenotypes led to significantly lower allele frequencies for polled. The male selection path played a significantly greater role for a fast dissemination of polled alleles compared to female selection strategies. Fixation of the polled allele implies selection based on polled genotypes among males. In comparison to a base breeding scenario that does not take polledness into account, intensive selection for polled substantially reduced genetic gain for this quantitative trait after 25 generations. Reducing selection intensity for polled males while maintaining strong selection intensity among females, simultaneously decreased losses in genetic gain and achieved a final allele frequency of 0.93 for polled.ConclusionsA fast transition to a completely polled population through intensified selection for polled was in contradiction to the preservation of high genetic gain for the quantitative trait. Selection on male polled genotypes with moderate weighting, and selection on female polled phenotypes with high weighting, could be a suitable compromise regarding all important breeding aspects.Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12711-016-0228-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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Energy demand for milk production in early lactation exceeds energy intake, especially in high-yielding Holstein cows. Energy deficiency causes increasing susceptibility to metabolic disorders. In addition to several blood parameters, the fat-to-protein ratio (FPR) is suggested as an indicator for ketosis, because a FPR >1.5 refers to high lipolysis. The aim of this study was to analyze phenotypic, quantitative genetic, and genomic associations between FPR and ketosis. In this regard, 8,912 first-lactation Holstein cows were phenotyped for ketosis according to a veterinarian diagnosis key. Ketosis was diagnosed if the cow showed an abnormal carbohydrate metabolism with increased content of ketone bodies in the blood or urine. At least one entry for ketosis in the first 6 wk after calving implied a score = 1 (diseased); otherwise, a score = 0 (healthy) was assigned. The FPR from the first test-day was defined as a Gaussian distributed trait (FPRgauss), and also as a binary response trait (FPRbin), considering a threshold of FPR = 1.5. After imputation and quality controls, 45,613 SNP markers from the 8,912 genotyped cows were used for genomic studies. Phenotypically, an increasing ketosis incidence was associated with significantly higher FPR, and vice versa. Hence, from a practical trait recording perspective, first test-day FPR is suggested as an indicator for ketosis. The ketosis heritability was slightly larger when modeling the pedigree-based relationship matrix (pedigree-based: 0.17; SNP-based: 0.11). For FPRbin, heritabilities were larger when modeling the genomic relationship matrix (pedigree-based: 0.09; SNP-based: 0.15). For FPRgauss, heritabilities were almost identical for both pedigree and genomic relationship matrices (pedigree-based: 0.14; SNP-based: 0.15). Genetic correlations between ketosis with FPRbin and FPRgauss using either pedigree-or genomic-based relationship matrices were in a moderate range from 0.39 to 0.71. Applying genome-wide association studies, we identified the specific SNP rs109896020 (BTA 5, position: 115,456,438 bp) significantly contributing to ketosis. The identified potential candidate gene PARVB in close chromosomal distance is associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in humans. The most important SNP contributing to FPRbin was located within the DGAT1 gene. Different SNP significantly contributed to ketosis and FPRbin, indicating different mechanisms for both traits genomically.
Background Breeding genetically hornless, i.e. polled, cattle provides an animal welfare-friendly and non-invasive alternative to the dehorning of calves. However, the molecular regulation of the development of horns in cattle is still poorly understood. Studying genetic characters such as polledness and scurs, can provide valuable insights into this process. Scurs are hornlike formations that occur occasionally in a wide variety of sizes and forms as an unexpected phenotype when breeding polled cattle. Methods We present a unique dataset of 885 Holstein–Friesian cattle with polled parentage. The horn phenotype was carefully examined, and the phenotypic heterogeneity of the trait is described. Using a direct gene test for polledness, the polled genotype of the animals was determined. Subsequently, the existence of a putative scurs locus was investigated using high-density genotype data of a selected subset of 232 animals and two mapping approaches: mixed linear model-based association analyses and combined linkage disequilibrium and linkage analysis. Results The results of an exploratory data analysis indicated that the expression of scurs depends on age at phenotyping, sex and polled genotype. Scurs were more prevalent in males than in females. Moreover, homozygous polled animals did not express any pronounced scurs and we found that the Friesian polled allele suppresses the development of scurs more efficiently than the Celtic polled allele. Combined linkage and linkage disequilibrium mapping revealed four genome-wide significant loci that affect the development of scurs, one on BTA5 and three on BTA12. Moreover, suggestive associations were detected on BTA16, 18 and 23. The mixed linear model-based association analysis supports the results of the combined linkage and linkage disequilibrium analysis. None of the mapping approaches provided convincing evidence for a monogenic inheritance of scurs. Conclusions Our results contradict the initial and still broadly accepted model for the inheritance of horns and scurs. We hypothesise an oligogenetic model to explain the development of scurs and polledness.
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