Genetic determination of the onset of heat stress on daily milk production in the US Holstein cattle

J P Sánchez, I Misztal, I Aguilar, B Zumbach, R Rekaya
Journal of Dairy Science 2009, 92 (8): 4035-45
Existence of individual variation in the onset of heat stress for daily milk yield of dairy cows was assessed. Data included 353,376 test-day records of 38,383 first-parity Holsteins from a random sample of US herds. Three hierarchical models were investigated. Model 1 inferred the value of a temperature-humidity index (THI) at which mean yield began to decline as well as the extent of that decline. Model 2 assumed individual variation in yield decline beyond a common THI threshold. Model 3 additionally assumed individual variation for the onset of heat stress. Deviance information criteria indicated the superiority of model 3 over model 2. For model 2, genetic correlation between milk yield in the absence of heat stress and the THI threshold for heat stress was -0.4 (0.11) [marginal posterior mean (marginal posterior standard deviation)]. For model 3, genetic correlations were -0.53 (0.05) between milk yield and THI threshold and -0.62 (0.08) between milk yield and yield decay beyond the THI threshold. Total standard deviation (sum of additive genetic and permanent environmental standard deviations) for the THI threshold was 3.95 (0.06), and more than half of that variation had an additive genetic origin [56% (5%)]. Because of the high genetic correlation [0.95 (0.03)] between yield decay and THI threshold with model 3, using only one of them as a selection criterion for heat tolerance would modify the other in the desired direction.

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