Genomic prediction is widely used to select candidates for breeding. Size and composition of the reference population are important factors influencing prediction accuracy. In Holstein dairy cattle, large reference populations are used, but this is difficult to achieve in numerically small breeds and for traits that are not routinely recorded. The prediction accuracy is usually estimated using cross-validation, requiring the full data set. It would be useful to have a method to predict the benefit of multibreed reference populations that does not require the availability of the full data set. Our objective was to study the effect of the size and breed composition of the reference population on the accuracy of genomic prediction using genomic BLUP and Bayes R. We also examined the effect of trait heritability and validation breed on prediction accuracy. Using these empirical results, we investigated the use of a formula to predict the effect of the size and composition of the reference population on the accuracy of genomic prediction. Phenotypes were simulated in a data set containing real genotypes of imputed sequence variants for 22,752 dairy bulls and cows, including Holstein, Jersey, Red Holstein, and Australian Red cattle. Different reference populations were constructed, varying in size and composition, to study within-breed, multibreed, and across-breed prediction. Phenotypes were simulated varying in heritability, number of chromosomes, and number of quantitative trait loci. Genomic prediction was carried out using genomic BLUP and Bayes R. We used either the genomic relationship matrix (GRM) to estimate the number of independent chromosomal segments and subsequently to predict accuracy, or the accuracies obtained from single-breed reference populations to predict the accuracies of larger or multibreed reference populations. Using the GRM overestimated the accuracy; this overestimation was likely due to close relationships among some of the reference animals. Consequently, the GRM could not be used to predict the accuracy of genomic prediction reliably. However, a method using the prediction accuracies obtained by cross-validation using a small, single-breed reference population predicted the accuracy using a multibreed reference population well and slightly overestimated the accuracy for a larger reference population of the same breed, but gave a reasonably close estimate of the accuracy for a multibreed reference population. This method could be useful for making decisions regarding the size and composition of the reference population.