Genetic correlations between body condition score, yield and fertility in Holstein heifers estimated by random regression models

R.F. Veerkamp, E.P.C. Koenen, G. de Jong

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    Twenty type classifiers scored body condition (BCS) of 91,738 first-parity cows from 601 sires and 5518 maternal grandsires. Fertility data during first lactation were extracted for 177,220 cows, of which 67,278 also had a BCS observation, and first-lactation 305-d milk, fat, and protein yields were added for 180,631 cows. Heritabilities and genetic correlations were estimated using a sire-maternal grandsire model. Heritability of BCS was 0.38. Heritabilities for fertility traits were low (0.01 to 0.07), but genetic standard deviations were substantial, 9 d for days to first service and calving interval, 0.25 for number of services, and 5␏or first-service conception. Phenotypic correlations between fertility and yield or BCS were small (-0.15 to 0.20). Genetic correlations between yield and all fertility traits were unfavorable (0.37 to 0.74). Genetic correlations with BCS were between -0.4 and -0.6 for calving interval and days to first service. Random regression analysis (RR) showed that correlations changed with days in milk for BCS. Little agreement was found between variances and correlations from RR, and analysis including a single month (mo 1 to 10) of data for BCS, especially during early and late lactation. However, this was due to excluding data from the conventional analysis, rather than due to the polynomials used. RR and a conventional five-traits model where BCS in mo 1, 4, 7, and 10 was treated as a separate traits (plus yield or fertility) gave similar results. Thus a parsimonious random regression model gave more realistic estimates for the (co)variances than a series of bivariate analysis on subsets of the data for BCS. A higher genetic merit for yield has unfavorable effects on fertility, but the genetic correlation suggests that BCS (at some stages of lactation) might help to alleviate the unfavorable effect of selection for higher yield on fertility.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2327-2335
    JournalJournal of Dairy Science
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

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