Genetic Relationship between Culling, Milk Production, Fertility, and Health Traits in Norwegian Red Cows

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  • M Holtsmark, Norwegian University of Life Science, Norway
  • B Heringstad, Norweigian University of Life Sciences, Norway
  • P Madsen
  • J Ødegård, AKVAFORSK, Institute of Aquaculture Research, Norway
  • Biostatistik
  • Department of Genetics and Biotechnology
First-lactation records on 836,452 daughters of 3,064 Norwegian Red sires were used to examine associations between culling in first lactation and 305-d protein yield, susceptibility to clinical mastitis, lactation mean somatic cell score (SCS), nonreturn rate within 56 d in heifers and primiparous cows, and interval from calving to first insemination. A Bayesian multivariate threshold-linear model was used for analysis. Posterior mean of heritability of liability to culling of primiparous cows was 0.04. The posterior means of the genetic correlations between culling and the other traits were -0.41 to 305-d protein yield, 0.20 to lactation mean SCS, 0.36 to clinical mastitis, 0.15 to interval from calving to first insemination, -0.11 to 56-d nonreturn as heifer, and -0.04 to 56-d nonreturn as primiparous cow. As much as 66% of the genetic variation in culling was explained by genetic variation in protein yield, clinical mastitis, interval of calving to first insemination, and 56-d nonreturn in heifers, whereas contribution from the SCS and 56-d nonreturn as primiparous cow was negligible, after taking the other traits into account. This implies that for breeds selected for a broad breeding goal, including functional traits such as health and fertility, most of the genetic variation in culling will probably be covered by other traits in the breeding goal. However, in populations where data on health and fertility is scarce or not available at all, selection against early culling may be useful in indirect selection for improved health and fertility. Regression of average sire posterior mean on birth-year of the sire indicate a genetic change equivalent to an annual decrease of the probability of culling in first-lactation Norwegian Red cattle by 0.2 percentage units. This genetic improvement is most likely a result of simultaneous selection for improved milk yield, health, and fertility over the last decades
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)4006-4012
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Research areas

  • genetic correlation, culling, fertility, health

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