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The relationship between fertility and lactation characteristics in Holstein cows on United Kingdom commercial dairy farms


The relationship between fertility and lactation characteristics in Holstein cows on United Kingdom commercial dairy farms



Journal of Dairy Science 96(1): 635-646



ISSN/ISBN: 0022-0302

PMID: 23141835

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2012-5632

Higher milk production is commonly associated with poorer fertility in dairy cows. This study used a biological model of lactation to define more closely which characteristics of lactation were linked to increased calving interval, an easily recorded measure of fertility in commercial dairy herds. Large data sets from a national milk recording scheme in the United Kingdom, collected over a 10-yr period, were used to calculate the genetic and phenotypic correlations between calving interval and a range of lactation traits within the Holstein breed. A lactation curve was fitted to each lactation, and several characteristics of each lactation were calculated. These were used in a series of mixed-model bivariate analyses with calving interval to derive the genetic parameters. When heifer lactation curve trait data were used, the highest genetic correlations were found with peak yield, maximum secretion potential, and total lactation milk yield (0.59±0.06 to 0.63±0.05), reflecting the observed phenomenon of poorer fertility and higher milk production. Genetic correlations for calving interval were also calculated with the rate of increase in milk yield in early lactation (0.46±0.08), persistency (0.36±0.09), day of peak yield (0.20±0.02), and relative cell death rate (-0.12±0.09). The daily production of milk components was highly genetically correlated with calving interval, with values for fat, protein, lactose, and water being 0.73±0.15, 0.48±0.13, 0.57±0.13, and 0.50±0.13. With these results and breeding values derived from these analyses, 2 possible strategies were suggested for improving the relationship between milk yield and fertility in dairy cows. First, animals that break the correlations described above could be selected (e.g., bulls with high peak yield and low calving intervals). Second, animals with lower peak yields but better persistency could be selected to maintain total milk yield.

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Accession: 056458816

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