Genome-wide association study identifies functional genomic variants associated with young stock survival in Nordic Red Dairy Cattle

Zexi Cai*, Xiaoping Wu, Bo Thomsen, Mogens Sandø Lund, Goutam Sahana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Identifying quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with calf survival is essential for both reducing economic loss in cattle industry and understanding the genetic basis of the trait. To identify mutations and genes underlying young stock survival (YSS), we performed GWAS using de-regressed estimated breeding values of a YSS index and its component traits defined by sex and age in 3,077 Nordic Red Dairy Cattle (RDC) bulls and 2 stillbirth traits (first lactation and later lactations) in 5,141 RDC bulls. Two associated QTL regions on Bos taurus autosome (BTA) 4 and 6 were identified for the YSS index. The results of 4 YSS component traits indicate that same QTL regions were associated with bull and heifer calf mortality, but the effects were different over the growing period and suggested an additional QTL on BTA23. The GWAS on stillbirth identified 3 additional QTL regions on BTA5, 14, and 24 compared with YSS and its component traits. The conditional test of BTA6 showed at least 2 closely located QTL segregating for YSS component traits and stillbirth. We found 2 independent QTL for stillbirth on BTA23. The post-GWAS revealed LCORL, PPM1K, SSP1, MED28, and LAP3 are putative causal genes on BTA6, and a frame shift variant within LCORL, BTA6:37401770 (rs384548488) could be the putative causal variant. On BTA4, the GRB10 gene is the putative causal gene and BTA4:5296018 is the putative causal variant. In addition, NDUFA9 and FGF23 on BTA5, LYN on BTA14, and KCNK5 on BTA23 are putative causal genes for QTL for stillbirth. The gene analysis also proposed several candidate genes. Our findings shed new light on the candidate genes affecting calf survival, and the knowledge could be utilized to reduce calf mortality and thereby enhance welfare of dairy cattle.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)7832-7845
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • calf mortality
  • genome-wide association
  • young stock survival


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