The length of productive life is of major economic importance in dairy cattle production. Simple breeding objectives such as selection for increased production in dairy cattle have led to a significant decline in fitness traits. The objective of the current study was to investigate whether direct selection for production resulted in an undesirable genetic response in longevity in the South African Jersey breed. Longevity was defined as survival in the first three lactations from first calving to culling or death, adjusted for the effect of milk yield. An observation for survival per lactation was denoted by 1 (survived) or 0 (culled) otherwise. Performance and pedigree records on purebred South African Jersey cows that participated in the National Milk Recording and Improvement Scheme were considered. A multiple-trait linear animal model was used to estimate breeding values. A complete (co)variance structure for the additive genetic and residual effects for the three traits were used. Heritabilities used in the current study were 0.034, 0.022 and 0.026 for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd lactations, respectively. Reliabilities were approximated using the effective number of daughters. The estimated breeding values for sires ranged from 79 to 114. The rate of genetic progress per year for the period 1985 to 2002 was statistically non-significant (b = 0.02 ± 0.05 per year). Results from the current study indicate that direct selection for production did not result in an undesirable correlated genetic response in longevity.