The variance of daily milk production as predictor for health and resilience in dairy cattle

H.A. Mulder, G.G. Elgersma, R. van de Linde, G. de Jong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Automatic milking systems (AMS) record an enormous amount of data on milk production and the cow itself. This type of big data is expected to contain indicators for health and resilience of cows. In this study, the aim was to define and estimate heritabilities for traits related with fluctuations in daily milk production and to estimate genetic correlations with existing functional traits such as udder health, fertility, claw health, ketosis and longevity. We used daily milk production records of AMS of 212,433 lactations in parities 1, 2 and 3 from 498 herds in the Netherlands. We defined several traits related to the number of drops in milk production using Student t-tests (DROP) as well as the natural logarithm of the within-cow variance of milk yield (LNvar). ASReml was used to estimate heritabilities and breeding values (EBV) for the new traits. Genetic correlations were estimated using correlations between EBV of the new traits and existing EBV for health and functional traits correcting for non-unity reliabilities using the Calo-method. Heritabilities for the DROP traits and LNvar were around 0.1, similar to heritabilities for health and functional traits. Genetic correlations between the new traits and the existing health traits differed a lot, the strongest correlations (0.4-0.6) were between LNvar and udder health, ketosis, persistency and longevity. LNvar was in this study the best trait, based on the combination of the heritability and the genetic correlations with health traits. Selection of the 20 bulls with the lowest EBV for LNvar, i.e. less fluctuations in milk production, showed that the daughters of these bulls have better udder health i.e. less mastitis, less ketosis, better fertility and stay 150 days longer in the farm than average. This study shows that the variance in daily milk production is heritable and can be used to breed healthy and resilient cows.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts of the 68th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868599
ISBN (Print)9789086863129
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEAAP 68th Annual Meeting of the Animal Science (EAAP) - Tallinn, Estonia
Duration: 28 Aug 20171 Sept 2017

Publication series

NameBook of abstracts
ISSN (Print)1382-6077


OtherEAAP 68th Annual Meeting of the Animal Science (EAAP)


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