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J Dairy Sci. 2005 Jun;88(6):2199-208.

Estimates of genetic parameters for Canadian Holstein female reproduction traits.

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Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.


Age at first insemination, days from calving to first insemination, number of services, first-service nonreturn rate to 56 d, days from first service to conception, calving ease, stillbirth, gestation length, and calf size of Canadian Holstein cows were jointly analyzed in a linear multiple-trait model. Traits covered a wide spectrum of aspects related to reproductive performance of dairy cows. Other frequently used fertility characteristics, like days open or calving intervals, could easily be derived from the analyzed traits. Data included 94,250 records in parities 1 to 6 on 53,158 cows from Ontario and Quebec, born in the years 1997 to 2002. Reproductive characteristics of heifers and cows were treated as different but genetically correlated traits that gave 16 total traits in the analysis. Repeated records for later parities were modeled with permanent environmental effects. Direct and maternal genetic effects were included in linear models for traits related to calving performance. Bayesian methods with Gibbs sampling were used to estimate covariance components of the model and respective genetic parameters. Estimates of heritabilities for fertility traits were low, from 3% for nonreturn rate in heifers to 13% for age at first service. Interval traits had higher heritabilities than binary or categorical traits. Service sire, sire of calf, and artificial insemination technician were important (relative to additive genetic) sources of variation for nonreturn rate and traits related to calving performance. Fertility traits in heifers and older cows were not the same genetically (genetic correlations in general were smaller than 0.9). Genetic correlations (both direct and maternal) among traits indicated that different traits measured different aspects of reproductive performance of a dairy cow. These traits could be used jointly in a fertility index to allow for selection for better fertility of dairy cattle.

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