Genetic parameters for milk production and type traits in North American and European Alpine and Saanen dairy goat populations

JDS Commun. 2023 Nov 4;5(1):28-32. doi: 10.3168/jdsc.2023-0389. eCollection 2024 Jan.

Abstract

The development of an across-country genomic evaluation scheme is a promising alternative for enlarging reference populations and successfully implementing genomic selection in small ruminant populations. However, the feasibility of such evaluations depends on the genetic similarity among the populations, and therefore, high connectedness and high genetic correlations between the traits recorded in different countries or populations are needed. In this study, we evaluated the feasibility of performing an across-country genomic evaluation for milk production and type traits in Alpine and Saanen goats from Canada, France, Italy, and Switzerland. Variance components and genetic parameters, including genetic correlations between traits recorded in different countries, were calculated using combined phenotypes, genotypes, and pedigree datasets. The (co)variance component analyses were performed within breed, either based only on pedigree information or also incorporating genomic information. Across-country genetic parameters were calculated for 3 representative traits (i.e., milk yield, fat content, and rear udder attachment). The heritability estimates ranged from 0.10 to 0.50, which are consistent with previous estimates reported in the literature. The genetic correlations for rear udder attachment ranged from 0.75 (between France and Italy, for the Alpine breed without genomic information) to 0.95 (between Canada and France, for the Saanen breed with genomic information), whereas for fat content, between France and Italy, they ranged from 0.75 in the Alpine breed without genomic information to 0.78 in the Alpine breed with genomic information. However, genetic correlations for milk yield were only estimable between France and Italy, with a moderate value of 0.45 for the Alpine breed with or without genomic information, and of 0.22 and 0.26 in the Saanen breed with and without genomic information, respectively. These low genetic correlations for milk yield could be due to several factors, including the trait definition in each country and genotype-by-environment interactions (GxE). The high genetic correlations found for fat content and rear udder attachment indicate that these traits might be more standardized across countries and less affected by GxE effects. Thus, an international genomic evaluation for these traits might be feasible. Further studies should be performed to understand the surprisingly lower genetic correlations between milk yield across countries. Furthermore, additional efforts should be made to increase the genetic connection among the Alpine and Saanen goat populations in the 4 countries included in the analyses.