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Bayesian analyses of genetic parameters for growth traits in Nellore cattle raised on pasture

Author(s): F.B. Lopes, J.L. Ferreira, R.B. Lobo and G.J.M. Rosa

This study was carried out to investigate (co)variance components and genetic parameters for growth traits in beef cattle using a multi-trait model by Bayesian methods. Genetic and residual (co)variances and parameters were estimated for weights at standard ages of 120 (W120), 210 (W210), 365 (W365), and 450 days (W450), and for pre- and post-weaning daily weight gain (preWWG and postWWG) in Nellore cattle. Data were collected over 16 years (1993-2009), and all animals were raised on pasture in eight farms in the North of Brazil that participate in the National Association of Breeders and Researchers. Analyses were run by the Bayesian approach using Gibbs sampler. Additive direct heritabilities for W120, W210, W365, and W450 and for preWWG and postWWG were 0.28 ± 0.013, 0.32 ± 0.002, 0.31 ± 0.002, 0.50 ± 0.026, 0.61 ± 0.047, and 0.79 ± 0.055, respectively. The estimates of maternal heritability were 0.32 ± 0.012, 0.29 ± 0.004, 0.30 ± 0.005, 0.25 ± 0.015, 0.23 ± 0.017, and 0.22 ± 0.016, respectively, for W120, W210, W365, and W450 and for preWWG and postWWG. The estimates of genetic direct additive correlation among all traits were positive and ranged from 0.25 ± 0.03 (preWWG and postWWG) to 0.99 ± 0.00 (W210 and preWWG). The moderate to high estimates of heritability and genetic correlation for weights and daily weight gains at different ages is suggestive of genetic improvement in these traits by selection at an appropriate age. Maternal genetic effects seemed to be significant across the traits. When the focus is on direct and maternal effects, W210 seems to be a good criterium for the selection of Nellore cattle considering the importance of this breed as a major breed of beef cattle not only in Northern Brazil but all regions covered by tropical pastures. As in this study the genetic correlations among all traits were high, the selection based on weaning weight might be a good choice because at this age there are two important effects (maternal and direct genetic effects). In contrast, W120 should be preferred when the objective is improving the maternal ability of the dams. Furthermore, selection for postWWG can be used if the animals show both heavier weaning weights and high growth rate after weaning because it is possible to shorten the time between weaning and slaughter based on weaning weight, postWWG, and desired weight at the time of slaughter.