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Genetic components of grey cattle in Estonia as revealed by microsatellite analysis using two Bayesian clustering methods

Meng-Hua Li1*, Juha Kantanen1, Annika Michelson2 and Urmas Saarma3

Author Affiliations

1 Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, FI-31600 Jokioinen, Finland

2 HAMK University of Applied Sciences, FI-31310 Mustiala, Finland

3 Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 46 Vanemuise Street, EE-51014 Tartu, Estonia

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:37  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-37

Published: 11 February 2011



It was recently postulated that a few individual grey cattle still found in Estonia might be a relict of the old native cattle stock. Genotypes at 17 microsatellite loci from a total of 243 cattle from North European breeds and 11 grey cattle in Estonia were used in an attempt to clarify the genetic composition of the grey cattle.


We characterize the genetic components of 11 examples of the grey cattle in Estonia at the population and individual levels. Our results show that the grey cattle in Estonia are most genetically similar to the Holstein-Friesian breed and secondarily to the Estonian Red cattle.


Both Bayesian approaches gave similar results in terms of the identification of numbers of clusters and the estimation of proportions of genetic components. This study suggested that the Estonian grey cattle included in the analysis are a genetic composite resulting from cross-breeding of European dairy breeds.