Genomic prediction of crossbred dairy cattle in Tanzania: A route to productivity gains in smallholder dairy systems

R. Mrode*, J. Ojango, C. Ekine-Dzivenu, H. Aliloo, J. Gibson, M.A. Okeyo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Selection based on genomic predictions has become the method of choice for genetic improvement in dairy cattle. This offers huge opportunity for developing countries with little or no pedigree data, and preliminary studies have shown promising results. The African Dairy Genetic Gains (ADGG) project initiated a digital system of dairy performance data collection, accompanied by genotyping in Tanzania in 2016. Currently, ADGG has the largest body of dairy performance data generated in East Africa from a smallholder dairy system. This study examines the use of genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) and single-step (ss)GBLUP for the estimation of genetic parameters and accuracy of genomic prediction for daily milk yield and body weight in Tanzania. The estimates of heritability for daily milk yield from GBLUP and ssGBLUP were essentially the same, at 0.12 ± 0.03. The heritability estimates for daily milk yield averaged over the whole lactation from random regression model (RRM) GBLUP or ssGBLUP were 0.22 and 0.24, respectively. The heritability of body weight from GBLUP was 0.24 ± 04 but was 0.22 ± 04 from the ssGBLUP analysis. Accuracy of genomic prediction for milk yield from a forward validation was 0.57 for GBLUP based on fixed regression model or 0.55 from an RRM. Corresponding estimates from ssGBLUP were 0.59 and 0.53, respectively. Accuracy for body weight, however, was much higher at 0.83 from GBLUP and 0.77 for ssGBLUP. The moderate to high levels of accuracy of genomic prediction (0.53–0.83) obtained for milk yield and body weight indicate that selection on the basis of genomic prediction is feasible in smallholder dairy systems and most probably the only initial possible pathway to implementing sustained genetic improvement programs in such systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11779-11789
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Early online date4 Aug 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2021


  • smallholder dairy cattle
  • genomic selection
  • crossbreeds
  • body weight
  • milk yield


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