Linear mixed models, for which the prior multivariate normal distributions of random effects are assumed to have a mean equal to 0, are commonly used in animal breeding. However, some statistical analyses (e.g., the consideration of a population under selection into a genomic scheme breeding, multiple-trait predictions of lactation yields, and Bayesian approaches integrating external information into genetic evaluations) need to alter both the mean and (co)variance of the prior distributions and, to our knowledge, most software packages available in the animal breeding community do not permit such alterations. Therefore, the aim of this study was to propose a method to alter both the mean and (co)variance of the prior multivariate normal distributions of random effects of linear mixed models while using currently available software packages. The proposed method was tested on simulated examples with 3 different software packages available in animal breeding. The examples showed the possibility of the proposed method to alter both the mean and (co)variance of the prior distributions with currently available software packages through the use of an extended data file and a user-supplied (co)variance matrix.
Journal of Dairy Science, 2014, Vol 97, Issue 9, p. 5880-5884