• Beef cattle;
  • covariance function;
  • genetic parameters;
  • piece-wise polynomials;
  • random regression


The objective of this work was to estimate covariance functions using random regression models on B-splines functions of animal age, for weights from birth to adult age in Canchim cattle. Data comprised 49 011 records on 2435 females. The model of analysis included fixed effects of contemporary groups, age of dam as quadratic covariable and the population mean trend taken into account by a cubic regression on orthogonal polynomials of animal age. Residual variances were modelled through a step function with four classes. The direct and maternal additive genetic effects, and animal and maternal permanent environmental effects were included as random effects in the model. A total of seventeen analyses, considering linear, quadratic and cubic B-splines functions and up to seven knots, were carried out. B-spline functions of the same order were considered for all random effects. Random regression models on B-splines functions were compared to a random regression model on Legendre polynomials and with a multitrait model. Results from different models of analyses were compared using the REML form of the Akaike Information criterion and Schwarz′ Bayesian Information criterion. In addition, the variance components and genetic parameters estimated for each random regression model were also used as criteria to choose the most adequate model to describe the covariance structure of the data. A model fitting quadratic B-splines, with four knots or three segments for direct additive genetic effect and animal permanent environmental effect and two knots for maternal additive genetic effect and maternal permanent environmental effect, was the most adequate to describe the covariance structure of the data. Random regression models using B-spline functions as base functions fitted the data better than Legendre polynomials, especially at mature ages, but higher number of parameters need to be estimated with B-splines functions.