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Genetic parameters for endocrine and traditional fertility traits, hyperketonemia and milk yield in dairy cattle

  • J. Häggman (a1), J. M. Christensen (a2), E. A. Mäntysaari (a3) and J. Juga (a1)


High-yielding cows may suffer from negative energy balance during early lactation, which can lead to ketosis and delayed ability of returning to cyclicity after calving. Fast recovery after calving is essential when breeding for improved fertility. Traditionally used fertility traits, such as the interval from calving to first insemination (CFI), have low heritabilities and are highly influenced by management decisions. Herd Navigator™ management program samples and analyses milk progesterone and β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) automatically during milking. In this study, the genetic parameters of endocrine fertility traits (measured from milk progesterone) and hyperketonemia (measured from milk BHB) in early lactation were evaluated and compared with traditional fertility traits (CFI, interval from calving to the last insemination and interval from first to last insemination) and the milk yield in red dairy cattle herds in Finland. Data included observations from 14 farms from 2014 to 2017. Data were analyzed with linear animal models using DMU software and analyses were done for first parity cows. Heritability estimates for traditional fertility traits were low and varied between 0.03 and 0.07. Estimated heritabilities for endocrine fertility traits (interval from calving to the first heat (CFH) and commencement of luteal activity (C-LA)) were higher than for traditional fertility traits (0.19 to 0.33). Five slightly different hyperketonemia traits divided into two or three classes were studied. Linear model heritability estimates for hyperketonemia traits were low, however, when the threshold model was used for binary traits the estimates became slightly higher (0.07 to 0.15). Genetic correlation between CFH and C-LA for first parity cows was high (0.97) as expected since traits are quite similar. Moderate genetic correlations (0.47 to 0.52) were found between the endocrine fertility traits and early lactation milk yield. Results suggest that the data on endocrine fertility traits measured by automatic systems is a promising tool for improving fertility, specifically when more data is available. For hyperketonemia traits, dividing values into three classes instead of two seemed to work better. Based on the current study and previous studies, where higher heritabilities have been found for milk BHB traits than for clinical ketosis, milk BHB traits are a promising indicator trait for resistance to ketosis and should be studied more. It is important that this kind of data from automatic devices is made available to recording and breeding organizations in the future.


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Genetic parameters for endocrine and traditional fertility traits, hyperketonemia and milk yield in dairy cattle

  • J. Häggman (a1), J. M. Christensen (a2), E. A. Mäntysaari (a3) and J. Juga (a1)


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