Genetic parameters for milk urea nitrogen in relation to milk production traits

W M Stoop, H Bovenhuis, J A M van Arendonk
Journal of Dairy Science 2007, 90 (4): 1981-6
The aim of this study was to estimate genetic parameters for test-day milk urea nitrogen (MUN) and its relationships with milk production traits. Three test-day morning milk samples were collected from 1,953 Holstein-Friesian heifers located on 398 commercial herds in The Netherlands. Each sample was analyzed for somatic cell count, net energy concentration, MUN, and the percentage of fat, protein, and lactose. Genetic parameters were estimated using an animal model with covariates for days in milk and age at first calving, fixed effects for season of calving and effect of test or proven bull, and random effects for herd-test day, animal, permanent environment, and error. Coefficient of variation for MUN was 33%. Estimated heritability for MUN was 0.14. Phenotypic correlation of MUN with each of the milk production traits was low. The genetic correlation was close to zero for MUN and lactose percentage (-0.09); was moderately positive for MUN and net energy concentration of milk (0.19), fat yield (0.41), protein yield (0.38), lactose yield (0.22), and milk yield (0.24), and percentage of fat (0.18), and percentage of protein (0.27); and was high for MUN and somatic cell score (0.85). Herd-test day explained 58% of the variation in MUN, which suggests that management adjustments at herd-level can reduce MUN. This study shows that it is possible to influence MUN by herd practice and by genetic selection.

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