Sexual dimorphism in livestock species selected for economically important traits

E.M.M. van der Heide, D.A.L. Lourenco, C.Y. Chen, W.O. Herring, R.L. Sapp, D.W. Moser, S. Tsuruta, Y. Masuda, B.J. Ducro, I. Misztal

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Most breeding companies evaluate economically important traits in males and females as a single trait, assuming genetic correlation of 1 between phenotypes measured in both sexes. This assumption may not be true because genes may be differently expressed in males and females. We estimated genetic correlations between males and females for growth and efficiency traits in broiler chickens, growth traits in American Angus beef cattle, and birth weight and preweaning mortality in purebred pigs; therefore, each trait was treated differently in males and females. Variance components were estimated in single- and multiple-trait models, jointly or separated into both sexes. Furthermore, we calculated traditional and genomic evaluations, and we correlated EBV or genomic EBV (GEBV) from joint and separate evaluations for males and females. For broiler chickens, genetic correlations ranged from 0.86 to 0.94. For Angus cattle, genetic correlations ranged from 0.86 to 0.98 for early growth traits and were less, ranging from 0.68 to 0.84, for postweaning gain. In pigs, genetic correlations ranged from 0.98 to 0.99 for birth weight and from 0.71 to 0.73 for preweaning mortality. For some models in all 3 animal species, the joint and separate analyses had different heritabilities. Despite differences in heritability, the correlations within the sex-specific trait EBV and between the sex-specific and the joint trait EBV were very strong, regardless of the model or inclusion of genomic information. Males and females differed for traits measured late in the animal’s life; however, strong traditional EBV correlations and also GEBV correlations indicate that considering the traits equal in males and females may have no negative impact on selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3684-3692
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Beef cattle
  • Broiler chickens
  • Genetic correlation
  • Genomic selection
  • Purebred pigs
  • Sex difference


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