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Strategies for defining traits when calculating economic values for livestock breeding: a review

Strategies for defining traits when calculating economic values for livestock breeding: a review

Animal: An International Journal of Animal Bioscience 7(9): 1401-1413

ISSN/ISBN: 1751-7311

PMID: 23773679

DOI: 10.1017/s1751731113001018

The objective of the present review was (i) to survey different approaches for choosing the complex of traits for which economic values (EVs) are calculated, (ii) to call attention to the proper definition of traits and (iii) to discuss the manner and extent to which relationships among traits have been considered in the calculation of EVs. For this purpose, papers dealing with the estimation of EVs of traits in livestock were reviewed. The most important reasons for incompatibility of EVs for similar traits estimated in different countries and by different authors were found to be inconsistencies in trait definitions and in assumptions being made about relationships among traits. An important problem identified was how to choose the most appropriate criterion to characterise production or functional ability for a particular class of animals. Accordingly, the review covered the following three topics: (i) which trait(s) would best characterise the growth ability of an animal; (ii) how to define traits expressed repeatedly in subsequent reproductive cycles of breeding females and (iii) how to deal with traits that differ in average value between sexes or among animal groups. Various approaches that have been used to solve these problems were discussed. Furthermore, the manner in which diverse authors chose one or more traits from a group of alternatives for describing a specific biological potential were reviewed and commented on. The consequences of including or excluding relationships among economically important traits when estimating the EV for a specific trait were also examined. An important conclusion of the review is that, for a better comparability and interpretability of estimated EVs in the literature, it is desirable that clear and unique definitions of the traits, complete information on assumptions used in analytical models and details on inter-relationships between traits are documented. Furthermore, the method and the model used for the genetic evaluation of specific traits in a certain breeding organisation are important for the exact definition of traits, for which the economic values will be calculated, and for the inclusion or exclusion of relationships among traits in the calculation of the EVs in livestock breeding.

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