Genome-wide genetic diversity of Holstein Friesian cattle reveals new insights into Australian and global population variability, including impact of selection

Anim Genet. 2007 Feb;38(1):7-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2052.2006.01543.x.


Past breeding strategies for dairy cattle have been very effective in producing rapid genetic gain to achieve industry targets and raise profitability. Such gains have been largely facilitated by intense selection of sires combined with the use of artificial insemination. However, this practice can potentially limit the level of genetic diversity through inbreeding and selection plateaus. The rate of inbreeding in Australia is increasing, primarily as a result of semen importation from a small number of prominent bulls from the USA. The effect of this genetic influx in the Australian dairy cattle population is poorly understood both in terms of diversity and local adaptation/divergence. This study uses 845 genome-wide SNP genetic markers and 431 bulls to characterize the level of genetic diversity and genetic divergence within the Australian and international Holstein Friesian dairy population. No significant differences in genetic diversity (as measured by heterozygosity [H(o)] and allelic richness [A]) were observed over the 25-year time period (1975-1999) for bulls used in Australia. The importation of foreign semen into Australia has increased the effective population size until it was in effect a sub-sample of the global population. Our data indicate that most individuals are equally closely related to one another, regardless of country of origin and year of birth. In effect, the global population can be considered as one single population unit. These results indicate that inbreeding, genetic drift and selection has had little effect at reducing genetic diversity and differentiating the Australian Holstein Friesian population at a genome-wide level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Cattle / classification
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome*
  • Inbreeding
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • Genetic Markers