Phenotypic and genetic effects of season on milk production traits in dairy cattle in the Netherlands

Haibo Lu, Yachun Wang, Henk Bovenhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Milk production systems in several countries show considerable differences between seasons. For example, in the Netherlands, cows are kept inside and fed silage in winter, whereas they are on pasture in summer. The differences between seasons affect milk yield and composition and might influence the genetic background of milk production traits. The objective of this study was to estimate phenotypic and genetic effects of season on milk production traits. For this purpose, 19,286 test-day milk production records of 1,800 first-parity Dutch Holstein-Frisian cows were available, and these cows were genotyped using a 50K SNP panel. Phenotypic effects of season were significant for all milk production traits. Effects of season were large for milk fat yield, fat content, and protein content. Genetic correlations between milk production traits in different seasons showed that genotype by season interaction effects were relatively small for most milk production traits. The genetic background of protein content and lactose content seems to be sensitive to seasonal effects. Furthermore, the genetic correlations between spring and autumn differed significantly from unity for almost all milk production traits. A genome-wide association study for genotype by season interaction identified chromosomal regions on BTA 3, BTA 14, BTA 20, and BTA 25 that showed genotype by season interaction effects, including a region containing DGAT1, which showed interaction effects for fat content and protein content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4486-4497
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • fresh grass
  • genetic correlation
  • genome-wide association study (GWAS)
  • genotype by season interaction

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