Genetic changes of survival traits over the past 25 yr in Dutch dairy cattle

M.L. van Pelt*, V. Ducrocq, G. de Jong, M.P.L. Calus, R.F. Veerkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Genetic correlations and heritabilities for survival were investigated over a period of 25 yr to evaluate if survival in first lactation has become a different trait and if this is affected by adjusting for production level. Survival after first calving until 12 mo after calving (surv_12mo) and survival of first lactation (surv_1st_lac) were analyzed in Dutch black-and-white cows. The data set contained 1,108,745 animals for surv_12mo and 1,062,276 animals for surv_1st_lac, with first calving between 1989 and 2013. The trait survival as recorded over 25 yr was split in five 5-yr intervals to enable a multitrait analysis. Bivariate models using subsets of the full data set and multitrait and autoregressive models using the full data set were used. Survival and functional survival were analyzed. Functional survival was defined as survival adjusted for within-herd production level for 305-d yield of combined kilograms of fat and protein. Mean survival increased over time, whereas genetic variances and heritability decreased. Bivariate models yielded large standard errors on genetic correlations due to poor connectedness between the extreme 5-yr intervals. The more parsimonious models using the full data set gave nonunity genetic correlations. Genetic correlations for survival were below 0.90 between intervals separated by 1 or more 5-yr intervals. Genetic correlations for functional survival did not indicate that definition of survival changed (≥0.90). The difference in genetic correlations between survival and functional survival is likely explained by lower emphasis of dairy farmers on culling in first lactation for low yield in more recent years. This suggests that genetic evaluation for longevity using historical data should analyze functional survival rather than survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9810-9819
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume99
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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Keywords

  • genetic correlation
  • longevity
  • survival

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