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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
As described in grant entitled “Development and field evaluation of genome-wide marker-assisted selection (GWMAS) over multiple generations in commercial poultry,” the consortium that includes members from Cobb Vantress, Hendrix Genetics, and many universities will: 1. Develop a Higher Density and More Informative Chicken SNP Panel 2. Refine the Theoretical and Molecular Aspects of GWMAS 3. Field Assessment of GWMAS 4. Further Improve the Chicken Genome Assembly For this agreement, only Objectives 2 and 3 apply.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
For Objective #2, alternative methods of utilizing GWMAS will be explored. The first method will be a multistep procedure as is used currently commercially. It starts with a regular evaluation using only phenotypic records, followed by a separate evaluation for animals using only genomic information (using Ridge regression, BayesA, BayesB, or BLUP with genomic relationships), and the resulting genetic values from each evaluation are combined using a weighting process. The second method will be a one step evaluation where a pedigree based relationship matrix in a regular BLUP procedure is replaced by a relationship matrix that blends the pedigree and genomic relationships. A simulation study as well as experiments using the field data will determine which of the methods is more suitable for commercial poultry breeding. For Objective #3, the expected breeding values (EBV) will be computed for each normalized trait of each animal based on genotypic information and phenotypes (if present). These EBV would in turn be used to determine total merit by use of the appropriate weights given by the companies. The companies will do their own BLUP evaluations based on phenotype as per their usual breeding programs. The goal is to make selection decisions based on the EBVs for each trait and/or total merit the same for each method of selection [BLUP, GWMAS], the only difference being the way in which the EBVs will be estimated.

3. Progress Report:
This project is directly linked to projects 3635-31320-008-37R, and Specific Cooperative Agreements 3635-31320-008-20S and 3635-31320-008-29S titled "Development and Field Evaluation of Genome-Wide Marker-Assisted Selection (GWMAS) Over Multiple Generations in Commercial Poultry." To meet the growing demands of consumers, the poultry industry will need to continue to improve methods of selection in breeding programs for production and associated traits. One possible solution is genome-wide marker-assisted selection (GWMAS). First proposed by one of our team members, GWMAS utilizes markers spanning the entire genome to increase accuracy and efficiency of estimating breeding values (EBV). This new method promises significant benefits, but there are many unanswered questions calling for proof that GWMAS actually works. Retrospective analysis has shown that genome-wide marker-based EBV correlates highly with phenotypic Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) EBV. However, there are concerns that these analyses will not reflect reality once implemented because selection may rapidly change variances, allele frequencies, and generate unfavorable linkage disequilibrium (LD), which only becomes apparent after the second round of selection. As planned, two meat-type and three egg-type chicken pure lines are being selected in parallel using either traditional or GWMAS. This year, after completing three rounds of selection, we conclude that in comparison to birds selected in parallel using current state-of-the-art breeding methods, genomic selection is superior for the vast majority of the traits selected including body weight and breast yield. This research strongly suggests that genomic selection is an improved breeding method with accuracies improving by more than 100% depending on the trait and generation. If costs for genetic testing continue to go down, then poultry breeders should be able to economically breed chickens faster using genomic selection and adapt more readily to changing consumer demands. The economic impact could be great since with 1 million meat-type birds processed per hour in the US alone, the net effect of even small improvements are large and worth millions of dollars.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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