Use of random regression to estimate genetic parameters of temperament across an age continuum in a crossbred cattle population.
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The objective was to estimate genetic parameters of temperament in beef cattle across an age continuum. The population consisted predominantly of Brahman-British crossbred cattle. Temperament was quantified by 1) pen score (PS), the reaction of a calf to a single experienced evaluator on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = calm, 5 = excitable); 2) exit velocity (EV), the rate (m/s) at which a calf traveled 1.83 m upon exiting a squeeze chute; and 3) temperament score (TS), the numerical average of PS and EV. Covariates included days of age and proportion of Bos indicus in the calf and dam. Random regression models included the fixed effects determined from the repeated measures models, except for calf age. Likelihood ratio tests were used to determine the most appropriate random structures. In repeated measures models, the proportion of B. indicus in the calf was positively related with each calf temperament trait (0.41 0.20, 0.85 0.21, and 0.57 0.18 for PS, EV, and TS, respectively; P < 0.01). There was an effect of contemporary group (combinations of season, year of birth, and management group) and dam age (P < 0.001) in all models. From repeated records analyses, estimates of heritability (h2) were 0.34 0.04, 0.31 0.04, and 0.39 0.04, while estimates of permanent environmental variance as a proportion of the phenotypic variance (c2) were 0.30 0.04, 0.31 0.03, and 0.34 0.04 for PS, EV, and TS, respectively. Quadratic additive genetic random regressions on Legendre polynomials of age were significant for all traits. Quadratic permanent environmental random regressions were significant for PS and TS, but linear permanent environmental random regressions were significant for EV. Random regression results suggested that these components change across the age dimension of these data. There appeared to be an increasing influence of permanent environmental effects and decreasing influence of additive genetic effects corresponding to increasing calf age for EV, and to a lesser extent for TS. Inherited temperament may be overcome by accumulating environmental stimuli with increases in age, especially after weaning.