GENETICS SELECTION EVOLUTION, vol.42, 2010 (SCI-Expanded)
Background: The distribution of residual effects in linear mixed models in animal breeding applications is typically assumed normal, which makes inferences vulnerable to outlier observations. In order to mute the impact of outliers, one option is to fit models with residuals having a heavy-tailed distribution. Here, a Student's-t model was considered for the distribution of the residuals with the degrees of freedom treated as unknown. Bayesian inference was used to investigate a bivariate Student's-t (BSt) model using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods in a simulation study and analysing field data for gestation length and birth weight permitted to study the practical implications of fitting heavy-tailed distributions for residuals in linear mixed models.