Abstract

Random regression (RR) models are recommended as an alternative to multiple-trait (MT) models for better capturing the variance-covariance structure over a trajectory and hence more accurate genetic evaluation of traits that are repeatedly measured and genetically change gradually over time. However, a limited number of studies have been done to empirically compare RR over a MT model to determine how much extra benefit could be achieved from one method over another. We compared the prediction accuracy of RR and MT models for growth traits of Australian meat sheep measured from 60 to 525d, using 102,579 weight records from 24,872 animals. Variance components and estimated breeding values (EBVs) estimated at specific ages were compared and validated with forward prediction. The accuracy of EBVs obtained from the MT model was 0.58, 0.51, 0.54, and 0.56 for weaning, postweaning, yearling, and hogget weight stages, respectively. RR model produced accuracy estimates of 0.56, 0.51, 0.54, and 0.54 for equivalent weight stages. Regression of adjusted phenotype on EBVs was very similar between the MT and the RR models (P > 0.05). Although the RR model did not significantly increase the accuracy of predicting future progeny performance, there are other benefits of the model such as no limit to the number of records per animal, estimation of EBVs for early and late growth, no need for age correction. Therefore, RR can be considered a more flexible method for the genetic evaluation of Australian sheep for early and late growth, and no need for age correction.

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