Estimation of genetic parameters for concentrations of milk urea nitrogen

G M Wood, P J Boettcher, J Jamrozik, G B Jansen, D F Kelton
Journal of Dairy Science 2003, 86 (7): 2462-9
The objective of this study was to use field data collected by dairy herd improvement programs to estimate genetic parameters for concentrations of milk urea nitrogen (MUN). Edited data were 36,074 test-day records of MUN and yields of milk, fat, and protein obtained from 6102 cows in Holstein herds in Ontario, Canada. Data were divided into three sets, for the first three lactations. Two analyses were performed on data from each lactation. The first procedure used ANOVA to estimate the significance of the effects of several environmental factors on MUN. Herd-test-day effects had the most significant impact on MUN. Effects of stage of lactation were also important, and MUN levels tended to increase from the time of peak yield until the end of lactation. The second analysis used a random regression model to estimate heritabilities and genetic correlations of MUN and the yield traits. Heritability estimates for MUN in lactations one, two, and three were 0.44, 0.59, and 0.48, respectively. Heritabilities for the yield traits were of a similar magnitude. Little relationship was observed between MUN and yield. Raw phenotypic correlations were all <0.10 (absolute value). Genetic correlations with production traits were close to zero in lactations one and three and only slightly positive in lactation two. The results indicate that selection on MUN is possible, but relationships between MUN and other economically important traits such as metabolic disease and fertility are needed.

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