Calving interval genetic parameters and trends for dairy breeds in South Africa

Author: B.E. Mostert, R.R. van der Westhuizen and H.E. Theron
Year: 2010
Issue: 2
Volume: 40
Page: 156 - 162

Calving interval (CI) is a fertility trait that can be used in selection programmes to minimize the negative effects that selection for production have on fertility. CI can be derived from milk recording data, therefore this fertility trait can easily be implemented in the National Dairy Genetic Evaluations of South Africa. The aim of this study was to estimate genetic parameters for CI for estimation of breeding values and genetic trends to enable South African dairy breeders to assess and select for improved fertility. Breeds included in the study were Ayrshire, Guernsey, Holstein and Jersey. Genetic parameters and trends were based on the first three CIs for all breeds. The genetic software package, VCE4, was used to estimate genetic parameters for CI. Heritabilities ranged from 0.011 for CI1 to 0.069 for CI2, both for the Guernsey breed. Genetic correlations ranged from 0.606 between CI2 and CI3 for the Guernsey breed, to 0.810 between CI1 and CI2 for the Ayrshire breed. Breeding value estimation was done using the genetic software package, PEST. The estimated breeding values were combined into an index value, using weighting factors based on the amount of information available for each trait. Genetic trends were calculated by averaging the CIindices of measured cows per year of birth. These genetic trends indicated that CI increased genetically for all breeds. The genetic parameters will now be implemented for the estimation of CI breeding values, which can be included in selection programmes for improvement of fertility of dairy breeds in South Africa.

Keywords: Ayrshire, fertility, Genetic correlations, Guernsey, heritability, Holstein, Jersey
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