Exploration of variance, autocorrelation, and skewness of deviations from lactation curves as resilience indicators for breeding

M. Poppe*, R.F. Veerkamp, M.L. van Pelt, H.A. Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of a cow to cope with environmental disturbances, such as pathogens or heat waves, is called resilience. To improve resilience through breeding, we need resilience indicators, which could be based on the fluctuation patterns in milk yield resulting from disturbances. The aim of this study was to explore 3 traits that describe fluctuations in milk yield as indicators for breeding resilient cows: the variance, autocorrelation, and skewness of the deviations from individual lactation curves. We used daily milk yield records of 198,754 first-parity cows, recorded by automatic milking systems. First, we estimated a lactation curve for each cow using 4 different methods: moving average, moving median, quantile regression, and Wilmink curve. We then calculated the log-transformed variance (LnVar), lag-1 autocorrelation (rauto), and skewness (Skew) of the daily deviations from these curves as resilience indicators. A genetic analysis of the resilience indicators was performed, and genetic correlations between resilience indicators and health, longevity, fertility, metabolic, and production traits were estimated. The heritabilities differed between LnVar (0.20 to 0.24), rauto (0.08 to 0.10), and Skew (0.01 to 0.02), and the genetic correlations among the indicators were weak to moderate. For rauto and Skew, genetic correlations with health, longevity, fertility, and metabolic traits were weak or the opposite of what we expected. Therefore, rauto and Skew have limited value as resilience indicators. However, lower LnVar was genetically associated with better udder health (genetic correlations from −0.22 to −0.32), better longevity (−0.28 to −0.34), less ketosis (−0.27 to −0.33), better fertility (−0.06 to −0.17), higher BCS (−0.29 to −0.40), and greater dry matter intake (−0.53 to −0.66) at the same level of milk yield. These correlations support LnVar as an indicator of resilience. Of all 4 curve-fitting methods, LnVar based on quantile regression systematically had the strongest genetic correlations with health, longevity, and fertility traits. Thus, quantile regression is considered the best curve-fitting method. In conclusion, LnVar based on deviations from a quantile regression curve is a promising resilience indicator that can be used to breed cows that are better at coping with disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1684
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • automatic milking system
  • dairy cow
  • milk yield
  • resilience
  • variance

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Exploration of variance, autocorrelation, and skewness of deviations from lactation curves as resilience indicators for breeding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this