Selection for female fertility using censored fertility traits and investigation of the relationship with milk production.

Research paper by O O González-Recio, R R Alenda, Y M YM Chang, K A KA Weigel, D D Gianola

Indexed on: 13 Oct '06Published on: 13 Oct '06Published in: Journal of Dairy Science


Bivariate models (censored linear-linear and censored threshold-linear) were used to estimate genetic parameters for production and fertility traits in the Spanish Holstein population. Records on 71,217 lactations from 41,515 cows were used: 30 and 36% of lactations were censored for days open (DO) and number of inseminations to conception (INS), respectively. Heritability estimates for production traits (milk, fat, protein) ranged between 0.18 and 0.25. Heritability of days to first service (DFS) and DO was 0.05; heritability of INS on the liability scale was 0.04. Genetic correlations between fertility traits were 0.41, 0.71, and 0.87 for DFS-INS, DO-INS, and DO-DFS, respectively. Days open had a larger genetic correlation (ranging from 0.63 to 0.76) with production traits than did DFS (0.47 to 0.59) or INS (0.16 to 0.23). Greater antagonism between production and DO may be due to voluntary management decisions for high-yielding cows, resulting in longer lactation lengths. Inseminations to conception appeared to be less correlated with milk production than were the other 2 female fertility traits. Including INS in a total merit index would be expected to increase genetic gain in terms of profit, but profit would decrease if either DO or DO and DFS were included in the index. Thus, INS is the trait to be preferred when selecting for female fertility. The genetic correlation between actual milk yield and 305-d standardized milk yield was 0.96 in the present study, suggesting that some reranking of sires could occur. Because the target of attaining a 12-mo calving interval, as implied by a 305-d standardized lactation length, is changing in the dairy industry, routine genetic evaluation of actual total lactation milk yield should be considered.