Five traits of major economic importance in the New Zealand dairy industry are milk volume, milk fat, milk protein, live weight, and survival. This study evaluated the impact of live weight as a trait in the selection objectives for the New Zealand dairy industry. Live weight of the lactating cow is an important measure because it reflects feeding costs via maintenance feed and salvage values of cows to be culled. In addition, selection responses were evaluated for differing relative economic values for milk protein and milk fat, and selection indexes that included or excluded phenotypic and genotypic correlations between traits were compared. Inclusion of live weight, with a negative economic value in a four-trait selection index with milk, milk fat, and protein resulted in higher economic response. Protein response to selection was not more than 2% when the relative economic value for the ratio of protein to milk fat exceeded 5:1 in a two-trait model; however, milk fat response decreased by over 10%. When a negative relative economic value was assigned to milk fat, economic returns were lower because of lower milk fat responses and the lack of higher protein responses compared with the same ratio for relative economic value but a positive weight for milk fat. Accounting for phenotypic and genetic correlations in deriving selection index weight improved economic response 5%.
Spelman, R. J., & Garrick, D. J. (1997). Effect of Live Weight and Differing Economic Values on Responses to Selection for Milk Fat, Protein, Volume, and Live Weight. Journal of Dairy Science, 80, 2557-2562. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(97)76211-8