Calving interval and survival breeding values as measure of cow fertility in a pasture based production system with seasonal calving

V. Olori, T.H.E. Meuwissen, R.F. Veerkamp

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    55 Citations (Scopus)


    In a grass-based production system with seasonal calving, fertility is of major economic importance. A delay in conception due to poor fertility prolongs intercalving interval and causes a shift in calving pattern, which can lead to culling. Calving interval (CIV) information is readily available from milk records; analyzing it, however, presents a problem, as it is only available for cows that conceive and calve again. Calving interval should therefore be treated as a censored trait. In this study, survival to the next lactation (SUV) was analyzed jointly with CIV in a multivariate linear model to account for the selection in CIV data. Genetic parameters for first lactation calving interval were estimated with a sire model for Holstein Friesian cows in Ireland. SUV was preadjusted for production within herd-year-season (HYS), while milk yield was included as a third trait in the analysis to account for the large effect it has on both traits. The residual covariance between CIV and SUV was fixed as 3 times the sire covariance within the model, as it was inestimable because of the structure of the data. Breeding values were estimated with various models to test the effect of culling and milk yield. Heritability was 0.04 ± 0.006 for CIV and 0.01 ± 0.003 for SUV, while the genetic correlation between them was -0.28 (± 0.11). The genetic standard deviation was around 4␏or SUV and 7 d for CIV. Sire predicted transmitting abilities for progeny tested bulls ranged between -5 and 3␏or survival rate and between -4 and 8 d for calving interval. Differences between the best and worst bull varied with model. Including SUV and milk yield as traits in the model reduced the mean and variance of sire predicted transmitting abilities but increased the coefficient of variation by 30␌ompared with the univariate model. The current model is expected to account for most of the genetic variation in fertility that is possible from calving dates and future extensions, such as the use of linear type trait or additional lactations for predicting survival, appear straightforward. These traits now form part of the national index for selecting dairy bulls in Ireland.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)689-696
    JournalJournal of Dairy Science
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


    Cite this