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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Feb;91(2):840-6. doi: 10.3168/jds.2006-142.

Short communication: genotype by environment interaction due to heat stress.

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Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Heat stress was evaluated as a factor in differences between regional evaluations for milk yield in the United States. The national data set (NA) consisted of 56 million first-parity, test-day milk yields on 6 million Holsteins. The Northeastern subset (NE) included 12.5 million records on 1.3 million first-calved heifers from 8 states, and the Southeastern subset (SE) included 3.5 million records on 0.4 million heifers from 11 states. Climatic data were available from 202 public weather stations. Each herd was assigned to the nearest weather station. Average daily temperature-humidity index (mean THI) 3 d before test date was used as an indicator of heat stress. Two test-day repeatability models were implemented. Effects included in both models were herd-test date, age at calving class, frequency of milking, days in milk x season class, additive genetic (regular breeding value) and permanent environmental effects. Additionally, the second model included random regressions on degrees of heat stress (t = max[0, mean THI - 72]) for additive genetic (breeding value for heat tolerance) and permanent environmental effects. Both models were fitted with the national and regional data sets. Correlations involved estimated breeding values (EBV) from SE and NE for sires with >or=100 and >or=300 daughters in each region. When heat stress was ignored (first model) the correlations of regular EBV between SE and NE for sires with >or=100 (>or=300) daughters were 0.85 (0.87). When heat stress was considered (second model), the correlation increased by up to 0.01. The correlations of heat stress EBV between NE and SE for sires with >or=100 (>or=300, >or=700) daughters were 0.58 (0.72, 0.81). Evaluations for heat tolerance were similar in cooler and hotter regions for high-reliability sires. Heat stress as modeled explains only a small amount of regional differences, partly because test-day records depict only snapshots of heat stress.

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