Genetic control of residual variance of yearling weight in Nellore beef cattle

J Anim Sci. 2017 Apr;95(4):1425-1433. doi: 10.2527/jas.2016.1326.


There is evidence for genetic variability in residual variance of livestock traits, which offers the potential for selection for increased uniformity of production. Different statistical approaches have been employed to study this topic; however, little is known about the concordance between them. The aim of our study was to investigate the genetic heterogeneity of residual variance on yearling weight (YW; 291.15 ± 46.67) in a Nellore beef cattle population; to compare the results of the statistical approaches, the two-step approach and the double hierarchical generalized linear model (DHGLM); and to evaluate the effectiveness of power transformation to accommodate scale differences. The comparison was based on genetic parameters, accuracy of EBV for residual variance, and cross-validation to assess predictive performance of both approaches. A total of 194,628 yearling weight records from 625 sires were used in the analysis. The results supported the hypothesis of genetic heterogeneity of residual variance on YW in Nellore beef cattle and the opportunity of selection, measured through the genetic coefficient of variation of residual variance (0.10 to 0.12 for the two-step approach and 0.17 for DHGLM, using an untransformed data set). However, low estimates of genetic variance associated with positive genetic correlations between mean and residual variance (about 0.20 for two-step and 0.76 for DHGLM for an untransformed data set) limit the genetic response to selection for uniformity of production while simultaneously increasing YW itself. Moreover, large sire families are needed to obtain accurate estimates of genetic merit for residual variance, as indicated by the low heritability estimates (<0.007). Box-Cox transformation was able to decrease the dependence of the variance on the mean and decreased the estimates of genetic parameters for residual variance. The transformation reduced but did not eliminate all the genetic heterogeneity of residual variance, highlighting its presence beyond the scale effect. The DHGLM showed higher predictive ability of EBV for residual variance and therefore should be preferred over the two-step approach.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / genetics
  • Breeding
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Cattle / growth & development
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Red Meat