Genetic associations of test-day fat:protein ratio with milk yield, fertility, and udder health traits in Nordic Red cattle

E Negussie, I Strandén, E A Mäntysaari
Journal of Dairy Science 2013, 96 (2): 1237-50
Interest is growing in finding indicator traits for the evaluation of nutritional or tissue energy status of animals directly at the individual animal level. The development and subsequent use of such traits in practice demands a clear understanding of the genetic and phenotypic associations with the various production and functional traits. In this study, the relationships during lactation between milk fat:protein ratio (FPR) and production and functional traits were estimated for Nordic Red cattle, in which published information is scarce. The objectives of this study were to estimate genetic associations of FPR with milk yield (MY), fertility, and udder health traits during different stages of lactation. Traits included in the analyses were MY, 4 fertility traits-days from calving to insemination (DFI), days open (DO), number of inseminations (NI), and nonreturn rate to 56 d (NRR)-and 2 udder health traits-test-day somatic cell score (SCS) and clinical mastitis (CM). Data were from a total of 22,422 first-lactation cows. Random regression models were used to estimate genetic parameters and associations between traits. The mean FPR in first-lactation cows was 1.28 and ranged from 1.25 to 1.45. During first lactation, the heritability of FPR ranged from 0.14 to 0.25. Genetic correlations between FPR and MY in early lactation (until 50 d in milk) were positive and ranged from 0.05 to 0.22; later in lactation, they were close to zero or negative, indicating that cows may have come out of the negative state of energy balance. The strength of genetic associations between FPR and fertility traits varied during lactation. In early lactation, correlations between FPR and the interval fertility traits DFI and DO were positive and ranged from 0.14 to 0.28. Genetic correlations between FPR and the udder health traits SCS and CM in early lactation ranged from 0.09 to 0.20. Milk fat:protein ratio is a heritable trait and easily available from routine milk-recording schemes. It can be used as a low-cost monitoring tool of poor health and fertility in the most critical phases of lactation and as an important indicator trait to improve robustness in dairy cows through selection.

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