Deer breeding in New Zealand has historically paid little attention to quantitative genetic methods to improve the cut weights of velvet antlers. To provide enhanced breeding values for velvet antlers genetic parameters were estimated for DEERSelect. Velvet antler weight data was obtained from 21 red deer and 7 wapiti breeding studs and uploaded to DEERSelect. These data consisted of > 50,000 records from 25,087 individuals and 1,419 sires. Mean velvet weights ranged from 2.71 (±1.01) at 2-years, to 5.79 (±1.98) at 10-years of age. Estimates of heritability at different ages were moderately high (0.33-0.44), but lower than previously reported estimates. Genetic correlations were high at all ages, phenotypic correlations were lower, both were similar to those reported previously. The genetic and phenotypic correlations between 12-month liveweight and 2-year-old and mature (i.e., ≥ 3 -year-old) velvet weights were low (0.15 ± 0.03, 0.02 ± 0.03) and low-moderate respectively (0.24 ± 0.08, 0.18 ± 0.01). These updated genetic parameters encouraged an update of the DEERSelect velvet module. The moderate heritability estimates should encourage breeders to make much more use of this quantitative genetic tool to breed more accurately for increased velvet antler weights.
New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production, Volume 82, Online, 77-81, 2022
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