Background: The prediction of the outcomes from multistage breeding schemes is especially important for the introduction of genomic selection in dairy cattle. Decorrelated selection indices can be used for the optimisation of such breeding schemes. However, they decrease the accuracy of estimated breeding values and, therefore, the genetic gain to an unforeseeable extent and have not been applied to breeding schemes with different generation intervals and selection intensities in each selection path.
Methods: A grid search was applied in order to identify optimum breeding plans to maximise the genetic gain per year in a multistage, multipath dairy cattle breeding program. In this program, different values of the accuracy of estimated genomic breeding values and of their costs per individual were applied, whereby the total breeding costs were restricted. Both decorrelated indices and optimum selection indices were used together with fast multidimensional integration algorithms to produce results.
Results: In comparison to optimum indices, the genetic gain with decorrelated indices was up to 40% less and the proportion of individuals undergoing genomic selection was different. Additionally, the interaction between selection paths was counter-intuitive and difficult to interpret. Independent of using decorrelated or optimum selection indices, genomic selection replaced traditional progeny testing when maximising the genetic gain per year, as long as the accuracy of estimated genomic breeding values was ≥ 0.45. Overall breeding costs were mainly generated in the path "dam-sire". Selecting males was still the main source of genetic gain per year.
Conclusion: Decorrelated selection indices should not be used because of misleading results and the availability of accurate and fast algorithms for exact multidimensional integration. Genomic selection is the method of choice when maximising the genetic gain per year but genotyping females may not allow for a reduction in overall breeding costs. Furthermore, the economic justification of genotyping females remains questionable.