Death of calves around parturition is a matter of concern for dairy farmers. Relatively high stillbirth rates and unfavourable trends have been reported for Holstein heifers in the Netherlands and several other countries. In our study, we investigated herd differences, genetic parameters and genotype by environment interaction for heifer calf livability. A large dataset with data from calvings between 1993 and 2012 of Dutch dairy farms was used. There were considerable differences between herds in livability of calves from heifers, with averages ranging from 74% to 95%. Both herds with relatively high and low averages showed the same negative trend between 1993 and 2012, with largest declines in herds with the lowest averages. We found that heritability and genetic variation of first parity livability were substantially larger in herd environments where the likelihood of stillbirth was high v. environments where stillbirth was at a low level. The genetic correlations between herd environment levels were all very close to unity, indicating that ranking of sires was similar for all environments. However, for herds with a relatively high stillbirth incidence selecting sires with favourable breeding values is expected to be twice as profitable as in herds with a relatively low stillbirth incidence.