Multi-trait genetic evaluation for horn traits of economic importance in the Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer)
The wildlife industry in South Africa has shown immense growth since the 1990s, which was brought about by the private game segment of the industry. In recent years, trophy quality Cape buffalo breeding animals have achieved extremely high prices. Much of the economic value of these animals can be attributed to horn size, which is important for breeding and hunting purposes. The main objective of the study was to estimate variance components for horn traits of economic importance as well as to develop guidelines for recording these traits. To date, no quantitative genetic analysis has been done for any traits in Cape buffalo. The total number of horn measurement records included in the evaluation was n = 945 for outer spread (BHSO), n = 470 for tip to tip (BHTSCI), n = 468 for left boss and n = 479 for right boss. For descriptive statistics, males and females were considered separately while age was divided into clusters of six months. A multi-trait animal model using Monte Carlo Markov Chains methods was used for the estimation of genetic parameters. Results suggest that it is not economically viable to measure horn spread and tip to tip of females after 48 months of age. Horns of the males continue to grow beyond 91 months of age. Boss records were unreliable owing to the applied measurement techniques for female and young animals. An inbreeding coefficient of 0.008 was calculated, suggesting adequate genetic diversity in the studied population. The heritability estimates of the horn traits were low, showing that extreme care has to be taken to develop effective selection programmes for the buffalo game industry using their horn genetic parameters. Further quantitative studies are required to support the results of the current study.
Keywords: genetic correlation, genetic parameters, heritability, Monte Carlo Markov Chain