Genetic evaluation of lactation persistency for five breeds of dairy cattle

J B Cole, D J Null
Journal of Dairy Science 2009, 92 (5): 2248-58
Cows with high lactation persistency tend to produce less milk than expected at the beginning of lactation and more than expected at the end. Best prediction of lactation persistency is calculated as a function of trait-specific standard lactation curves and linear regressions of test-day deviations on days in milk. Because regression coefficients are deviations from a tipping point selected to make yield and lactation persistency phenotypically uncorrelated it should be possible to use 305-d actual yield and lactation persistency to predict yield for lactations with later endpoints. The objectives of this study were to calculate (co)variance components and breeding values for best predictions of lactation persistency of milk (PM), fat (PF), protein (PP), and somatic cell score (PSCS) in breeds other than Holstein, and to demonstrate the calculation of prediction equations for 400-d actual milk yield. Data included lactations from Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey (GU), Jersey (JE), and Milking Shorthorn (MS) cows calving since 1997. The number of sires evaluated ranged from 86 (MS) to 3,192 (JE), and mean sire estimated breeding value for PM ranged from 0.001 (Ayrshire) to 0.10 (Brown Swiss); mean estimated breeding value for PSCS ranged from -0.01 (MS) to -0.043 (JE). Heritabilities were generally highest for PM (0.09 to 0.15) and lowest for PSCS (0.03 to 0.06), with PF and PP having intermediate values (0.07 to 0.13). Repeatabilities varied considerably between breeds, ranging from 0.08 (PSCS in GU, JE, and MS) to 0.28 (PM in GU). Genetic correlations of PM, PF, and PP with PSCS were moderate and favorable (negative), indicating that increasing lactation persistency of yield traits is associated with decreases in lactation persistency of SCS, as expected. Genetic correlations among yield and lactation persistency were low to moderate and ranged from -0.55 (PP in GU) to 0.40 (PP in MS). Prediction equations for 400-d milk yield were calculated for each breed by regression of both 305-d yield and 305-d yield and lactation persistency on 400-d yield. Goodness-of-fit was very good for both models, but the addition of lactation persistency to the model significantly improved fit in all cases. Routine genetic evaluations for lactation persistency, as well as the development of prediction equations for several lactation end-points, may provide producers with tools to better manage their herds.

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