Genetic partitioning of variation in ovulatory follicle size and probability of pregnancy in beef cattle.
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The objectives of this research were to partition variation in ovulatory follicle size into genetic and nongenetic components and to assess the utility of ovulatory follicle size as an indicator trait associated with reproductive success in beef cattle. Data were collected during the years 2002 to 2005 from 780 beef females that ranged in age from 1 to 12 yr (mean of 2.4 observations per female). Data were analyzed with a multiple trait Gibbs sampler for animal models to make Bayesian inferences from flat priors. A chain of 500,000 Gibbs samples was thinned to every 200th sample to produce a posterior distribution composed of 2,500 samples. Heritability estimates (posterior mean +/- SD) were 0.16 +/- 0.03 for follicle size and 0.07 +/- 0.02 and 0.02 +/- 0.01 for pregnancy rate as a trait of the female and service sire, respectively. Posterior means of genetic correlations were all <0.10, with 0.00 contained within the respective 90% probability density posterior intervals. Results indicate that whereas follicle size is of greater heritability than pregnancy rate, its usefulness to improve reproductive rate is greatest as an ancillary phenotype in multiple trait selection.