Aarhus University Seal

Heterosis and breed effects for milk production and udder health traits in crosses between Danish Holstein, Danish Red, and Danish Jersey

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


During the last decade, the use of systematic crossbreeding in dairy cattle herds has increased in several countries of the world. The aim of this study was to estimate the effect of breed proportion and heterosis on milk production traits and udder health traits in dairy cattle. The study was based on records on milk yield (MY), protein yield (PY), fat yield (FY), somatic cell score (SCS), and mastitis (MAST) from 73,695 first-lactation dairy cows in 130 Danish herds applying systematic crossbreeding programs. Around 45% of the cows were crosses between Danish Holstein (DH), Danish Red (DR), or Danish Jersey (DJ), and the remaining were purebred DH, DR, or DJ. The statistical model included the fixed effects of herd-year, calving month, and calving age and an effect representing the lactation status of the cow. In addition, the model included a regression on calving interval from first to second lactation, a regression on the proportion of DH, DR, and DJ genes, and a regression on the degree of heterozygosity between DH and DR, DH and DJ, and DR and DJ. Random effects were the genetic effect of the cow and a residual. The effect of breed proportions was estimated relatively to DH. For MY, a pure DR yielded 461 kg milk less than DH, whereas a pure DJ yielded 2,259 kg milk less than a pure DH. Compared with DH, PY was 41.7 kg less for DJ, whereas PY for DR was 4.0 kg less than for DH. For FY, a DR yielded 10.6 kg less than DH, whereas there was no significant effect of breed proportion between DJ and DH. A DR cow had lower SCS (0.13) than DH, whereas DJ had higher SCS (0.14) than DH. There was no significant effect of breed proportion on MAST between the 3 breeds. Heterosis was significant in all combinations of breeds for MY, FY, and PY. Heterosis for crosses between DH and DR was 257 kg (3.2%), 11.9 kg (3.2%), and 8.9 kg (3.2%) for MY, PY, and FY, respectively. Corresponding figures for crosses between DH and DJ were 314 kg (4.4%), 14.3 kg (4.4%), and 10.4 kg (4.0%), whereas heterosis between DR and DJ was 462 kg (6.7%), 19.6 kg (6.7%), and 13.9 kg (5.4%) for MY, PY, and FY, respectively. Heterosis was only significant for SCS in the crosses between DH and DR. Heterosis effects for MAST were nonsignificant for all the crosses. The results obtained in this study demonstrate that in first lactation cows, there is a positive effect of heterosis on milk production traits, but limited effect on udder health traits.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)678-682
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 200844937