Key grazing behaviours of beef cattle identify specific genotypes of the glutamate metabotropic receptor 5 gene (GRM5)

Journal Article
Genotype-phenotype associations between the bovine genome and grazing behaviours measured over time and across contexts have been reported in the past decade, with these suggesting the potential for genetic control over grazing personalities in beef cattle. From the large array of metrics used to describe grazing personality behaviours (GP-behaviours), it is still unclear which ones are linked to specific genes. Our prior observational study has reported associations and trends towards associations between genotypes of the glutamate metabotropic receptor 5 gene (GRM5) and four GP-behaviours, yet the unbalanced representation of GRM5 genotypes occurring in observational studies may have limited the ability to detect associations. Here, we applied a subsampling technique to create a genotypically-balanced dataset in a quasi-manipulative experiment with free ranging cows grazing in steep and rugged terrain of New Zealand’s South Island. Using quadratic discriminant analysis, two combinations of eleven GP-behaviours (and a total of fifteen behaviours) were selected to build an exploration model and an elevation model, respectively. Both models achieved ∼ 86% accuracy in correctly discriminating cows’ GRM5 genotypes with the training dataset, and the exploration model achieved 85% correct genotype prediction of cows from a testing dataset. Our study suggests a potential pleiotropic effect, with GRM5 controlling multiple grazing behaviours, and with implications for the grazing of steep and rugged grasslands. The study highlights the importance of grazing behavioural genetics in cattle and the potential use of GRM5 markers to select individuals with desired grazing personalities and built herds that collectively utilize steep and rugged rangelands sustainably.
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