• Variance components;
  • Monte Carlo sample size;
  • convergence criterion


Multiple-trait and random regression models have multiplied the number of equations needed for the estimation of variance components. To avoid inversion or decomposition of a large coefficient matrix, we propose estimation of variance components by Monte Carlo expectation maximization restricted maximum likelihood (MC EM REML) for multiple-trait linear mixed models. Implementation is based on full-model sampling for calculating the prediction error variances required for EM REML. Performance of the analytical and the MC EM REML algorithm was compared using a simulated and a field data set. For field data, results from both algorithms corresponded well even with one MC sample within an MC EM REML round. The magnitude of the standard errors of estimated prediction error variances depended on the formula used to calculate them and on the MC sample size within an MC EM REML round. Sampling variation in MC EM REML did not impair the convergence behaviour of the solutions compared with analytical EM REML analysis. A convergence criterion that takes into account the sampling variation was developed to monitor convergence for the MC EM REML algorithm. For the field data set, MC EM REML proved far superior to analytical EM REML both in computing time and in memory need.