Heritability of live weight and condition score in a Holstein herd and correlations with milk traits – preliminary estimates

Author: C.J.C. Muller, S.W.P. Cloete, J.J. Olivier, J.A. Botha and H. de Waal
Year: 2006
Issue: 2
Volume: 36
Page: 79 - 88

Genetic and environmental parameters for live weight and condition score have been determined for Holstein cows. Genetic correlations with milk traits were also derived. Monthly records were modelled by cubic splines, while the direct, additive effects of animal and the temporary environment (defined as cow environmental effects within lactations) were fitted as random. Lactation number interacted with monthly trends in cow live weight. Cows lost weight in the early part of the lactation. This reduction in live weight was probably because of a loss in body reserves, as suggested by a lower condition score. Cows gained live weight towards the end of lactation. The ultimate live weight of cows increased with parity because of ongoing growth. The heritability (h²) estimate for live weight was high at 0.65 ± 0.04, albeit still within the expected range. Condition score had a medium h² of 0.24 ± 0.05. Genetic and phenotypic correlations of live weight with milk yield were positive, i.e. 0.19 ± 0.14 and 0.12 ± 0.05, respectively, while correlations of condition score with milk yield were negative, i.e. -0.42 ± 0.15 and -0.17 ± 0.04, respectively. Although live weight could be used as an indirect indicator of feed intake and efficiency of milk production, other body conformation traits could also be used. There is a need in the South African dairy industry for a selection index based on production parameters and some traits such as live weight, condition score or specific conformation traits. However, a large participation of animals in milk recording and measurement of such traits is a prerequisite for such developments.

Keywords: butterfat, Cows, cubic splines, environmental parameters, parity, protein
Read article