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Five books every animal breeding student should read

For a couple of days I've been thinking about the canon of animal breeding, the important works that every student should read. I'm not up to the task right now of assembling a list of key scientific papers, and I suspect that there's already a good list somewhere that I can use as a starting point, so I'm going to go for low-hanging fruit instead. These are five books that I think that every graduate student in animal breeding should work through, reading the text and working the exercises as they go.

  • Cameron, N.D. 1997. Selection Indices and Prediction of Genetic Merit in Animal Breeding: I'm not sure how many people have actually read this book, but I find it to provide very nice coverage of selection index methodology. It's much more accessible to me than Van Vleck's "Selection Index and Introduction to Mixed Model Methods", but some may also prefer Wellers's "Economic Aspects of Animal Breeding", which also includes a lot of material on selection index.
  • Falconer, D.S., and T.F.W. Mackay. 1996. Introduction to Quantitative Genetics (4th Edition): This is the classic introductory text on quantitative genetics, and is essential reading for anyone who is going to work seriously in animal breeding. It also lays the groundwork necessary to tackle Wright's epic four-volume series "Evolution and the Genetics of Populations". The chapters are relatively short, but there is a tremendous amount of material packed into each. I stil return to Falconer frequently, and I've been a full-time animal breeder for more than a decade.
  • Henderson, C.R. 1984. Applications of Linear Models in Animal Breeding: This is one of the foundational works in animal breeding, but it's very terse. I recommend that you work through this book with the help of Larry Schaeffer's Animal Model Notes.
  • Lush, J.L. 1945. Animal Breeding Plans: This is a very old book that I sadly ignored for years. Jay Lush knew a lot about practical animal breeding, and he set some of it down in this book. This a treatise on applied animal breeding, it's not an academic work per se. Many of the tools discussed in the book have been supplanted by more moden approaches, but reading this will provide the student with a very good historical overview of the field, and will help you recognize old things that sometimes become new again. (Note: I bought my copy from a used bookseller on the Internet. As best I can tell -- so take this with a grain of salt -- the book is out of copyright in the US. It looks as though there is a publisher that sells an e-book edition for about $9. Somebody should probably spend the time to reset the book using LaTeX, like Schaeffer did with Henderson's book, and make it available as a free e-book. Maybe I'll get to that one day.)
  • Mrode, R. A. 2014. Linear Models for the Prediction of Animal Breeding Values, 3rd Edition: Mrode's book is the canonical work on models for the estimation of breeding values, and the new third edition includes material on genomic selection models. It is full of examples that the reader can easily implement in Python or R as they read through the material. The material is very accessible, and the references list comprehensive. It dovetails nicely with the very theoretical approach taken in Henderson's book.

Note that these are just my opinions, and there are some other very good books out there. Bourdon's introduction to animal breeding text is dated, but has some very nice things in it. Sorensen and Gianola's "Likelihood, Bayesian, and MCMC Methods in Quantitative Genetics" is intimidating, but very good. Ignacy Misztal's course notes on Computational techniques in animal breeding (link to PDF) are a great resource for anyone interested in the software implementation of genetic evaluations. I'm sure there are other great sources that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

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