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Heritability and repeatability of milk lactose and its relationships with traditional milk traits, somatic cell score and freezing point in Holstein cows

  • A. Costa (a1), N. Lopez-Villalobos (a2), G. Visentin (a1), M. De Marchi (a1), M. Cassandro (a1) and M. Penasa (a1)...


Lactose percentage (LP) in milk is currently determined in most herd-testing schemes, and globally, it is usually routinely recorded in the framework of the official milk recording procedures. However, few studies have investigated the phenotypic and genetic variability of this component. Data used in the present paper consisted of 59 811 test-day records from 4355 Holstein cows in 266 herds. Heritabilities of LP and lactose yield (LY) were estimated through single-trait repeatability animal models, whereas genetic and phenotypic correlations of LP and LY with milk composition and production traits, somatic cell score and milk freezing point were estimated using bivariate models. Fixed effects included in the analyses were herd-test-date, season of calving, parity, stage of lactation and the interaction between parity and stage of lactation. Random effects were animal additive genetic, within and across lactation permanent environment and the residual. Lactation curves of LP and LY increased from parturition to the peak of lactation and decreased thereafter, mirroring the typical curve of milk yield. Lactose percentage was greater in first- than later-parity cows. Heritabilities of LP and LY were 0.43±0.03 and 0.14±0.02, respectively, and LP and protein percentage were the most repeatable traits. Genetic correlations (ra) of LP with somatic cell score, LY and milk freezing point were −0.22±0.08, 0.28±0.08 and −0.46±0.05, respectively. Genetic relationships of LY with milk yield (ra=0.97±0.00), fat percentage (ra=−0.71±0.06), protein percentage (ra=−0.57±0.06) and protein yield (ra=0.64±0.06) were moderate to strong. Results suggest that milk LP could be considered in breeding strategies to accelerate the gain of correlated low heritable traits. Further research is needed to evaluate the feasibility of including LP in the selection index of Italian Holstein population to address country-specific needs and market demands.


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Present address: Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Frisona Italiana (ANAFI), Via Bergamo 292, 26100 Cremona, Italy.



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