Background: Genomic selection has become a very important tool in animal genetics and is rapidly emerging in plant genetics. It holds the promise to be particularly beneficial to select for traits that are difficult or expensive to measure, such as traits that are measured in one environment and selected for in another environment. The objective of this paper was to develop three models that would permit multi-trait genomic selection by combining scarcely recorded traits with genetically correlated indicator traits, and to compare their performance to single-trait models, using simulated datasets.
Methods: Three (SNP) Single Nucleotide Polymorphism based models were used. Model G and BCπ0 assumed that contributed (co)variances of all SNP are equal. Model BSSVS sampled SNP effects from a distribution with large (or small) effects to model SNP that are (or not) associated with a quantitative trait locus. For reasons of comparison, model A including pedigree but not SNP information was fitted as well.
Results: In terms of accuracies for animals without phenotypes, the models generally ranked as follows: BSSVS > BCπ0 > G > > A. Using multi-trait SNP-based models, the accuracy for juvenile animals without any phenotypes increased up to 0.10. For animals with phenotypes on an indicator trait only, accuracy increased up to 0.03 and 0.14, for genetic correlations with the evaluated trait of 0.25 and 0.75, respectively.
Conclusions: When the indicator trait had a genetic correlation lower than 0.5 with the trait of interest in our simulated data, the accuracy was higher if genotypes rather than phenotypes were obtained for the indicator trait. However, when genetic correlations were higher than 0.5, using an indicator trait led to higher accuracies for selection candidates. For different combinations of traits, the level of genetic correlation below which genotyping selection candidates is more effective than obtaining phenotypes for an indicator trait, needs to be derived considering at least the heritabilities and the numbers of animals recorded for the traits involved.