Inferring genetic parameters on latent variables underlying milk yield and quality, protein composition, curd firmness and cheese-making traits in dairy cattle
Dadousis, C.; Cipolat-Gotet, C.; Bittante, G.; Cecchinato, A.
Animal An International Journal of Animal Bioscience 12(2): 224-231
We studied the genetics of cheese-related latent variables (factors; Fs) for application in dairy cattle breeding. In total, 26 traits, recorded in 1264 Brown Swiss cows, were analyzed through multivariate factor analysis (MFA). Traits analyzed were descriptors of milk quality and yield (including protein fractions) and measures of coagulation, curd firmness (CF), cheese yields (%CY) and nutrient recoveries in the curd (REC). A total of 10 Fs (mutual orthogonal with a varimax rotation) were obtained. To assess the practical use of the Fs into breeding, we inferred their genetic parameters using single and bivariate animal models under a Bayesian framework. Heritability estimates (intra-herd) varied between 0.11 and 0.72 (F3: Yield and F7: κ-β-CN, respectively). The Fs underlined basic characteristics of the cheese-making process, milk components and udder health, while retaining 74% of the original variability. The first two Fs were indicators of the CY percentage (F1: %CY) and the CF process (F2: CF t ), and presented similar heritability estimates: 0.268 and 0.295, respectively. The third factor was associated with the yield of milk and solids (F3: Yield) characterized by a low heritability (0.108) and the fourth with the cheese nitrogen (N) (F4: Cheese N) that conversely appeared to be characterized by a high heritability (0.618). Three Fs were associated with the proportion of the basic milk caseins on total milk protein (F5: as1-β-CN, F7: κ-β-CN, F8: as2-CN), also highly heritable (0.565, 0.723 and 0.397, respectively) and 1 factor with the phosphorylated form of the as1-CN (F9: as1-CN-Ph; 0.318). Moreover, 1 factor was linked to the whey protein α-LA (F10: α-LA; 0.147). An indicator factor of a cow's udder health (F6: Udder health) was also obtained and showed a moderate heritability (0.204). Although the Fs were phenotypically uncorrelated, considerable additive genetic correlations existed among them, with highest values observed between F10: α-LA and F6: Udder health (-0.67) as well as between F9: as1-CN-Ph and F3: Yield (-0.60). Our results show the usefulness of MFA in dairy cattle breeding. The ability to replace a large number of variables with a few latent indicators of the same biological meaning marks MFA as a valuable tool for developing breeding strategies to improve cow's cheese-related traits.