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J Dairy Sci. 2003 Mar;86(3):1009-18.

Identification of factors that cause genotype by environment interaction between herds of Holstein cattle in seventeen countries.

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Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


Currently, the International Bull Evaluation Service calculates international dairy sire evaluations using the multiple-trait across country evaluation procedure. This method depends implicitly on political boundaries between countries, because the input data are national evaluations from each participating country. Therefore, different countries are treated as different production environments. The goal of this study was to identify factors that describe the production system on each farm. Such factors could be used to group herds across countries for borderless genetic evaluations. First lactation milk records of Holstein cows calving between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1997 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and the USA were used in this study. Thirteen genetic, management, and climatic variables were considered as potential indicators of production environments: peak milk yield, persistency, herd size, age at first calving, seasonality of calving, standard deviation of milk yield, culling rate, days to peak yield, fat to protein ratio, sire PTA milk, percentage of North American Holstein genes, maximum monthly temperature, and annual rainfall. Herds were grouped into quintiles based on herd averages for each of these variables. Genetic correlations for lactation milk yield between quintiles were significantly less than one for maximum monthly temperature, sire PTA milk, percent North American Holstein genes, herd size, and peak milk yield. The variables can be used to group herds into similar production environments, regardless of country borders, for the purpose of accounting for genotype by environment interaction in international dairy sire evaluation.

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