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Multiple trait genetic evaluation of clinical mastitis in three dairy cattle breeds

  • A. Govignon-Gion (a1), R. Dassonneville (a2), G. Baloche (a1) (a2) and V. Ducrocq (a1)


In 2010, a routine genetic evaluation on occurrence of clinical mastitis in three main dairy cattle breeds – Montbéliarde (MO), Normande (NO) and Holstein (HO) – was implemented in France. Records were clinical mastitis events reported by farmers to milk recording technicians and the analyzed trait was the binary variable describing the occurrence of a mastitis case within the first 150 days of the first three lactations. Genetic parameters of clinical mastitis were estimated for the three breeds. Low heritability estimates were found: between 2% and 4% depending on the breed. Despite its low heritability, the trait exhibits genetic variation so efficient genetic improvement is possible. Genetic correlations with other traits were estimated, showing large correlations (often>0.50, in absolute value) between clinical mastitis and somatic cell score (SCS), longevity and some udder traits. Correlation with milk yield was moderate and unfavorable (ρ=0.26 to 0.30). High milking speed was genetically associated with less mastitis in MO (ρ=−0.14) but with more mastitis in HO (ρ=0.18). A two-step approach was implemented for routine evaluation: first, a univariate evaluation based on a linear animal model with permanent environment effect led to pre-adjusted records (defined as records corrected for all non-genetic effects) and associated weights. These data were then combined with similar pre-adjusted records for others traits in a multiple trait BLUP animal model. The combined breeding values for clinical mastitis obtained are the official (published) ones. Mastitis estimated breeding values (EBV) were then combined with SCSs EBV into an udder health index, which receives a weight of 14.5% to 18.5% in the French total merit index (ISU) of the three breeds. Interbull genetic correlations for mastitis occurrence were very high (ρ=0.94) with Nordic countries, where much stricter recording systems exist reflecting a satisfactory quality of phenotypes as reported by the farmers. They were lower (around 0.80) with countries supplying SCS as a proxy for the international evaluation on clinical mastitis.


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