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A novel method for the estimation of the relative importance of breeds in order to conserve the total genetic variance

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The need for conservation of farm animal genetic resources is widely accepted. A key question is the choice of breeds to be conserved. For this purpose, a core set of breeds was introduced in that the total genetic variance of a hypothetical quantitative trait was maximised (MVT core set). For each breed the relative contribution to the core set was estimated and the breeds were ranked for conservation priority according to their relative contribution. The method was based on average kinships between and within breeds and these can be estimated using genetic marker data. The method was compared to a recently published core set method that maximises the variance of a hypothetical population that could be obtained by interbreeding the conserved breeds (MVO core set). The results show that the MVT (MVO) core set favours breeds with a high (low) within breed kinship that are not related to other breeds. Following this, the MVT core set method suggests conserving breeds that show a large difference in the respective population mean of a hypothetical quantitative trait. This maximises the speed of achieving selection response for this hypothetical selection direction. Additionally, bootstrap based methods for the estimation of the breed's contribution to the core sets were introduced, substantially improving the accuracy of the contribution estimates.

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Correspondence to Jörn Bennewitz.

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  • genetic variance
  • conservation
  • kinship
  • livestock breed
  • bootstrap