BackgroundIn China, the reference population of genotyped Holstein cattle is relatively small with to date, 80 bulls and 2091 cows genotyped with the Illumina 54 K chip. Including genotyped Holstein cattle from other countries in the reference population could improve the accuracy of genomic prediction of the Chinese Holstein population. This study investigated the consistency of linkage disequilibrium between adjacent markers between the Chinese and Nordic Holstein populations, and compared the reliability of genomic predictions based on the Chinese reference population only or the combined Chinese and Nordic reference populations.MethodsGenomic estimated breeding values of Chinese Holstein cattle were predicted using a single-trait GBLUP model based on the Chinese reference dataset, and using a two-trait GBLUP model based on a joint reference dataset that included both the Chinese and Nordic Holstein data.ResultsThe extent of linkage disequilibrium was similar in the Chinese and Nordic Holstein populations and the consistency of linkage disequilibrium between the two populations was very high, with a correlation of 0.97. Genomic prediction using the joint versus the Chinese reference dataset increased reliabilities of genomic predictions of Chinese Holstein bulls in the test data from 0.22, 0.15 and 0.11 to 0.51, 0.47 and 0.36 for milk yield, fat yield and protein yield, respectively. Using five-fold cross-validation, reliabilities of genomic predictions of Chinese cows increased from 0.15, 0.12 and 0.15 to 0.26, 0.17 and 0.20 for milk yield, fat yield and protein yield, respectively.ConclusionsThe linkage disequilibrium between the two populations was very consistent and using the combined Nordic and Chinese reference dataset substantially increased reliabilities of genomic predictions for Chinese Holstein cattle.