Breeding for polled animals is deemed the most practical solution to eradicate horns naturally and circumvent management costs and risks on health and welfare. However, there has been a historical reluctance by some farmers to select polled animals due to perceived lower productivity of their calves.
This study has compared estimated breeding values (EBVs) between horned and polled animals (N = 2,466,785) for 12 production and carcass traits to assess historical (before 2000) and recent (2000-2018) genetic implications of poll breeding.
Older generations of the polled animals in most breeds had significantly lower (Bonferroni-corrected p = 0.05) genetic merits for live (birth to maturity) and carcass weights, milk, meat quality, and fat content traits. Substantial gains of genetic potential were achieved during 2000 to 2018 in each breed, such that polled animals have significantly improved for the majority of traits studied.
Generally, polled cohorts showed advantageous EBVs for live and carcass weights irrespective of the lower birth weights in some breeds. While Polled Brahman showed inferior production parameters, the poll genetics’ effect size (d) and correlation (r) were very small on recent birth weight (d = -0.30, r = -0.08), 200 days (-0.19, -0.05), 400 days (-0.06, -0.02), 600 days (-0.05, -0.01), mature cow live weight (-0.08, -0.02), and carcass weight (-0.19, -0.05). In conclusion, although there is some evidence that historical selection for polled breeding animals may have reduced productivity, there is strong evidence that more recent selection for polled genotypes in the breeds studied has not resulted in any adverse effects on genetic merit.
Keywords: beef cattle; genetic correlations; genetic potential; poll breeding; production traits.
Animals (Basel). 2021 Mar 18;11(3): 870.doi: 10.3390/ani11030870.
1School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia.
2CSIRO Agriculture and Food, St Lucia, QLD 4067, Australia.
3Centre for Animal Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia.
4Agri-Genetics Consulting, Brisbane, QLD 4074, Australia.
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