Genomic identification of individuals with outstanding offspring

Published on
February 5, 2020

​New genomic selection methods developed by Wageningen University & Research help to identify individuals that produce more genetically variable offspring. These methods facilitate the breeding of genetically outstanding offspring.

Researchers of WUR have developed a method to identify the parents that are most likely to produce outstanding offspring. The method is a combination of genome-wide marker information and computer simulation. The most promising parents are identified based on a linear combination of their genomic breeding value and the predicted genetic variability of their offspring. When selection is strong, breeders can increase the probability of obtaining an outstanding offspring by more than 10%.

Selecting the best parents

To genetically improve health and productivity of livestock populations, animal breeders select the individuals with the best breeding values to become parents of the next generation. In this way, the average performance of the next generation is maximized.

Using genetic variation among offspring

The genetic quality of individual offspring, however, randomly varies around the mean breeding value of the parents due to Mendelian segregation of genes. In other words: some offspring are genetically better than the mean of their parents, while other offspring are genetically worse. For continued genetic improvement over multiple generations, parents that have a high probability of producing genetically outstanding offspring are of obvious interest. Hence, apart from selecting parents producing offspring that do well on average, breeders can also increase rates of genetic improvement by selection parents that give offspring with greater genetic variation. The latter increases the probability of finding an outstanding offspring.

Results of this study have been published in the journal Genetics.