2014 journal article
Genomic selection for producer-recorded health event data in US dairy cattle
JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE, 97(5), 3190–3199.
Emphasizing increased profit through increased dairy cow production has revealed a negative relationship of production with fitness and health traits. Decreased cow health can affect herd profitability through increased rates of involuntary culling and decreased or lost milk sales. The development of genomic selection methodologies, with accompanying substantial gains in reliability for low-heritability traits, may dramatically improve the feasibility of genetic improvement of dairy cow health. Producer-recorded health information may provide a wealth of information for improvement of dairy cow health, thus improving profitability. The principal objective of this study was to use health data collected from on-farm computer systems in the United States to estimate variance components and heritability for health traits commonly experienced by dairy cows. A single-step analysis was conducted to estimate genomic variance components and heritabilities for health events, including cystic ovaries, displaced abomasum, ketosis, lameness, mastitis, metritis, and retained placenta. A blended H matrix was constructed for a threshold model with fixed effects of parity and year-season and random effects of herd-year and sire. The single-step genomic analysis produced heritability estimates that ranged from 0.02 (standard deviation = 0.005) for lameness to 0.36 (standard deviation = 0.08) for retained placenta. Significant genetic correlations were found between lameness and cystic ovaries, displaced abomasum and ketosis, displaced abomasum and metritis, and retained placenta and metritis. Sire reliabilities increased, on average, approximately 30% with the incorporation of genomic data. From the results of these analyses, it was concluded that genetic selection for health traits using producer-recorded data are feasible in the United States, and that the inclusion of genomic data substantially improves reliabilities for these traits.