Use of high density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays to assess genetic diversity and population structure of dairy cattle in smallholder dairy systems: The case of Girinka Programme in Rwanda
In most smallholder dairy programmes, farmers are not fully benefitting from the genetic potential of their dairy cows. This is in part due to the mismatch between the available genotypes and the environment, including management, in which the animals perform. With sparse performance and pedigree records in smallholder dairy farms, the true degree of baseline genetic variability and breed composition is not known and hence rendering any genetic improvement initiative difficult to implement. Using the Girinka programme of Rwanda as an exemplar, the current study was aimed at better understanding the genetic diversity and population structure of dairy cattle in the smallholder dairy farm set up. Further, the association between farmer self-reported cow genotypes and genetically determined genotypes was investigated. The average heterozygosity estimates were highest (0.38 ± 0.13) for Rwandan dairy cattle and lowest for Gir and N'Dama (0.18 ± 0.19 and 0.25 ± 0.20, respectively). Systematic characterization of the genetic variation and diversity available may inform the formulation of sustainable improvement strategies such as targeting and matching the genotype of cows to productivity goals and farmer profile and hence reducing the negative impact of genotype by environment interaction.