UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A dairy cattle breeding and management computer simulation program for teaching and research Skinner, John


The increased power and availability of computers has resulted in an increase in the value of simulation as a means of furthering our understanding of systems. Reducing the components and interactions of a system to mathematical models enables simulation to provide a clear basis of the system and this can be useful for teaching and research. Simulation is especially suited for studying genetic gain in dairy cattle because there are already reliable mathematical models available. Analyzing genetic gain in practice is difficult due to the numerous and diverse factors that affect it. This project has provided a computer program that simulates the inheritance of the economically important traits in dairy cattle and includes interactions with the biological, management and economic factors which can affect genetic gain. It was designed primarily as a teaching tool for senior undergraduate students in animal genetics or dairy science, to heighten students interest and encourage them to think more deeply about the subject. Features were also included to make the simulation useful in research for stimulating and refining research objectives and for analyzing questions not easily tested in the field. The program models the system at the cow level with critical management decisions made on a continuous basis and summaries and other management decisions on a calendar year basis. Mature equivalent milk production is given in Breed Class Averages and the quota system of limiting milk production is used so that any small Canadian dairy population can be simulated. Parameters are provided and documented for simulating a Fraser Valley population. Since a dairy population is an extremely complex system improvements and expansions to this simulation can be made. While some expansions and improvements are possible with existing information many would require more research to provide parameters and bases for models. Use and testing should reveal the changes that are the most beneficial and feasible. The program has been written in a modularized form to more easily facilitate changes and additions. Full instructions, sample runs and documentation have been included to encourage knowledgeable use and expansion of the program.

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