Genetic determination of mortality rate in Danish dairy cows: a multivariate competing risk analysis based on the number of survived lactations

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Dairy cow mortality has been steadily increasing during the last two decades in Denmark. This study aims to verify whether genetic mechanisms might be contributing to this increase. To do so, the records of 880,480 Holstein, 142,306 Jersey and 85,206 Red Danish dairy cows calving from 1990 to 2006 were retrieved form the Danish Cattle register. Two causes of culling of cows were considered: death and slaughtering. Bivariate competing risk genetic models with a sire model structure were used to describe the death and the slaughtering rates simultaneously. The models included two random components: a sire random component with pedigree representing the sire genetic effects and a herd-year-season component. Moreover, the level of heterozygosity and the sire breed proportions were included in the models as covariates in order to account for potential non-additive genetic effects due to the massive introduction of genetic material from other populations. The correlations between the sire components for death rate and slaughter rate were negative and small for the 3 populations, suggesting the existence of specific genetic mechanisms for each culling reason and common concurrent genetic mechanisms. In the Holstein population the effects of the changes in the level of heterozygosity, breed composition and the increasing genetic trend act in the same direction increasing the death rate in the recent years. In the Jersey population, the effects of the level of heterozygosity and the breed proportion were small, and only the increasing genetic trend can be pointed as a genetic cause to the observed increase in the mortality rate. In the Red Danish population neither the time-development pattern of the genetic trend nor the changes in the level of heterozygosity and breed composition could be causing the observed increase in the mortality; thus, there must be non-genetic factors causing this negative development
TidsskriftJournal of Dairy Science
Sider (fra-til)1753-1761
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 3 mar. 2014

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