Livestock Research for Rural Development 18 (12) 2006 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Genetic parameters in buffalo calves fed at full milk in beef production system in middle Magdalena region of Colombia

R Angulo, D Agudelo-Gómez*, **, M F Cerón-Muñoz* and S Jaramillo-Botero

Rancho Claro S.A., Calí, Valle, Colombia
*Grupo de investigación en genética y mejoramiento animal, Universidad de Antioquia Colombia
Corporación Universitaria Lasallista, Caldas Antioquia, Colombia


The (Co) variance components and genetics parameters for weaning weight (WW) and slaughter weight (SW) were estimated with 1021 and 346 records, respectively, in three buffalo's herds of the Colombian middle Magdalena region. The bi-trait analyses was done through the maximum restricted likelihood method with a derivative free algorithm using the MTDFREML software. The WW analyses included the sex and contemporary group fixed effect, covariables were dam's age (quadratic) and calf age (linear) and the additive direct, maternal additive and environment permanent random effect. The SW analysis included the contemporary group fixed effect and covariable animal's age (linear) and additive direct random effect.

The direct heritability was 0.1 and 0.31 for WW and SW, respectively. The maternal heritability was 0.26 for WW. The heritabilities and genetic correlations for weaning weight and slaughter indicated the possibility of  implementation of selection programs in the baby buffalo beef system in Colombia.

Key words: beef industry, buffalo, genetic parameters

Parámetros genéticos en bucerros alimentados a toda leche en el Magdalena Medio Colombiano


Se estimaron los componentes de (Co) varianza y los parámetros genéticos para peso al destete y peso al sacrificio utilizando 1021 y 346 registros, respectivamente, en tres hatos bufalinos localizados en la región del magdalena Medio Colombiano. Se aplicó un análisis bi-característico empleando la metodología de máxima verosimilitud restricta libre de algoritmos, usando Software MTDFREML. Para el análisis de peso al destete se incluyeron los efectos fijos sexo y grupo contemporáneo, y las covariables edad de la madre (cuadrática) y edad de la cría (linear) y los efectos aleatorios aditivo materno y ambiente permanente. Para el peso al sacrificio se incluyó el efecto fijo del grupo contemporáneo y el efecto aleatorio aditivo directo.

La heredabilidad directa fue de 0.1 y 0.31 para peso al destete y peso al sacrificio respectivamente y la heredabilidad materna fue de 026 para peso al destete. Las heredabilidades y las correlaciones genéticas para las características evaluadas indican que se pueden implementar programas de selección en explotaciones de Baby Búfalo en Colombia.

Palabras clave: bufalos, industria cárnica, parámetros genéticos


The estimation of genetic parameters is indispensable in any animal breeding program because it is necessary for the determination of the genetic progress in the selection procedures and to estimate the breeding value of the animals. In case of the characteristics that are influenced by the dam traits, it is necessary to include the maternal genetic effect in the genetic model and the permanent environment of the dam (Dodenhoff et al 1999; Meyer 1992). The importance of maternal influence in the growth of the calf is known for a long time (Robinson 1981), indicating that many times this maternal factor is more important than the direct genetic factor, above all, in the first stages of the calf's life, and specially if the calf is still being suckled. The maternal effect slowly fades away after weaning and the direct genetic effect assumes more importance in the growth of the animals until slaughter (Campelo et al 2004; Cundiff 1972).

There are few estimates of genetic parameters for growth traits in buffaloes. Chantalakhana (1981) reported heritabilities for birth and eight months weight of 0.63 and 0.37, respectively, which suggested that buffalo breeding programs are possible.

The objective of this study was to estimate variance components and genetic parameters for weaning and slaughter weights of buffaloes in a Colombian production system with the aim to use the results in decision-making in genetic improvement programs.

Materials and methods

This study was done in three buffalo herds in the Colombian Middle Magdalena region. The Ceilan Buffalo herd is located in Guarinocito (Dorada, Caldas) at 190 m above sea level with 28.4°C and 1900 mm of annual precipitation, distributed between the months March-June and October-December, classified as a dry tropical forest. The Riomanso buffalo herd is located in Norcasia (Caldas) at 150 m above sea level with a 26.3°C and 2300 mm of annual precipitation, distributed between March-June and October-December, classified as a humid tropical forest. The El Cortijo Buffalo herd is located in Puerto Boyacá (Boyacá) at 120 m above sea level with 26.1°C and 2500 mm of annual precipitation, distributed between the months April-June and November-December, classified as a humid tropical forest. The calves in all three herds are managed under continuous suckling (dams are not milked) and the output  product is "Baby Buffalo" meat.

The genetic analysis considered 1021 and 346 records of WW and SW, respectively, in the years 2001 to 2005. The animals were descendents of 555 dams and 305 sires. For WW were estimated the direct and maternal additive and permanent and temporal environment variances. In SW were estimated the direct additive and temporal environment variances only. The bi-trait analysis was done through the animal model with restricted maximum likelihood method with MTDFREML software (Boldman et al 1995).

The seasons were: dry season (January to March and July to September) and rainy season (April to June and October to December).

For the WW variable was included the dam and calf's age as the quadratic and linear effect, respectively, and the sex and contemporary group (herd, year and season) fixed effects. For SW was included the animal's age at slaughter as linear effect and contemporary group (herd, year and season of slaughter) fixed effect.

The model used was the following:


Y: Is the WW and SW variables;

b: Is the fixed effect;

a: Is the direct additive genetic random effect;

m: Is the maternal additive genetic random effect (for WW);

ep: Is the permanent environment of the dam random effect (for WW); and

e: Is the residual random effect.

X, Z, W and S are the incidence matrix relationships of the fixed, direct additive, maternal additive and permanent environment effect, respectively.


The descriptive statistics for WW and SW are presented in Table 1. The males weighed 14 kg more than females at weaning.

Table 1.  Number (N), Means (M), standard deviation (SD), coefficient variance (CV), minimum (MIN) and maximum (MAX) of weaning and slaughter weight (WW and SW, respectively) for baby buffaloes raised for beef







WW, kg






SW, kg






The genetic (Co) variances for WW and SW ae presented in Table 2. The direct heritability () for WW was low (0.10). Maternal heritability () (0.26) was higher than which suggested that WW depends more on the the maternal effect than the direct genetic effect. The genetic correlation between direct and maternal effect was positive but low (0.10).

Table 2.   Genetic (Co) variances for weaning and slaughter weight (WW and SW, respectively)
baby buffaloes raised for beef


Direct effect on SW

Direct effect on WW

Maternal effect on WW

Direct effect of SW




Direct effect of WW




Maternal effect of WW




The permanent environment effect of the dam variance as a proportion of total variance was low (almost 0), indicating that the repeatability was similar to heritability for WW (Table 3).

Table 3.  Heritabilities and genetic correlations for weaning and slaughter weight (WW and SW, respectively) baby buffalo’s beef


Direct effect on SW

Direct effect on WW

Maternal effect on WW

Direct effect on SW




Direct effect on WW




Maternal effect on WW




The for SW was medium (0.31). The genetic correlation between WW and SW direct effect was high (0.57), suggesting that the animals with best breeding value for WW have the best breeding value for SW (Table 3). The correlation between maternal genetic effect for WW and direct genetic effect for SW was high (0.87) and the residual and phenotypic correlations between WW and SW were 0.70 and 0.68, respectively.


The mean WW was higher than reported in Argentina (Zaba and Clevañer 2001) and Venezuela (Rodas-González et al 2001), where the reports were WW of 201 + 15 kg and 235 + 22 kg, respectively. The WW is a principal economic variable that shows the adaptation of the buffaloes in tropical conditions with bad or good pastures, hence it is an excellent indicator for buffalo beef breeding programs (Nogueira et al 1989). However, it is necessary to include different effects that influence this characteristics such as season of the year, the age of the dam and sex of the calf (Schammass et al 1996, Angulo y Jaramillo 2005). In this study, the males were 14 kg heavier than females. This result coincides with reports in the literature that indicated bigger weight in the males through hormonal factors and sexual maturity (Moran 1992).

The SW was higher than reported by Rodas-González et al (2001). For baby buffalo beef, the animal should reach a slaughter live weight of more than 280 kg at the end of their first year. In order for this to happen it is necessary to supply the calf and the dam with with adequate feed.  Angulo and Jaramillo (2005) found the daily weight gain was greater than 850 g in these production systems.

There are few reports in the literature of genetic parameters in beef buffaloes. However, the values recorded in this study  for the and were higher than recorded by other authors. Bath (1979) reported total heritability of 0.33 for WW in Water buffaloes under pasture condition in India. Carrero (2000) indicated that the and for weight at 12 months in buffaloes can vary from 0.18 to 0.85, depending on the environmental conditions and the genetic model used in the evaluations. Schammas et al (1996) found total heritability for WW of 0.23 in Mediterranean buffaloes in Brazil. In this study a high dependence of maternal ability was observed in WW because the growth of the calf in a full suckling system depends on milk yield and lactation duration of the dam (Dodenhoff et al 1999; Ferraz et al 2004; Meyer 1992; Plasse et al 2002). The genetic correlation between the SW direct genetic effect and WW maternal genetic effect was high and positive, similar as reported by Iwaisaki et al (2005) in Gelbvieh cattle, where they encountered a correlation between WW genetic maternal effect and yearling weight was 0.57. The genetic, residual and phenotypic correlations were within  the values reported in the literature (Gregory et al 1978, BIF 2004).



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Received 14 August 2006; Accepted 15 November 2006; Published 6 December 2006

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