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Genetic parameters for female fertility in Nordic Holstein and Red Cattle dairy breeds

Muuttoranta, Kirsi, Tyrisevä, Anna-Maria, Mäntysaari, Esa A., Pösö, Jukka, Aamand, Gert Pedersen, Lidauer, Martin H.
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.9 pp. 8184-8196
Holstein, animal models, breeding value, calving, conception rate, dairy cows, female fertility, genetic correlation, heifers, heritability, insemination, parity (reproduction), phenotype, sires, variance
Genetic evaluation of female fertility in Danish, Finnish, and Swedish dairy cows was updated in 2015 to multiple-trait animal model evaluation, where heifer and cow fertility up to third parity are considered as separate traits. A model for conception rate was also developed, which required variance component estimation for Nordic Holstein and Nordic Red Dairy Cattle. We used a multiple-trait multiple-lactation sire model to determine variance components for interval from calving to first insemination, length of service period, and conception rate. Monte Carlo Expectation Maximization REML allowed estimation of all 11 traits simultaneously. Study data were sampled from Swedish Holstein (n = 140,040) and Red Dairy Cattle (n = 101,315) heifers and cows. Conception rate observations are binomial observations with various numbers of failures preceding an observation of success. Using a simulation study, we confirmed that including a service number effect into the conception rate model allowed us to model the change in expectation of successful AI with increasing number of services. Heifers outperformed cows in all fertility traits according to the phenotypic means in the records. Heritabilities for the traits varied from 3 to 7% for interval from calving to first insemination, from 1 to 5% for length of service period, and from 1 to 3% for conception rate. Genetic correlations within traits (i.e., between parities) were favorable, ranging from moderate to high; genetic correlations between heifer and cow traits were lower than between cow traits in different parities. Lowest genetic correlations between traits were for interval from calving to first insemination and conception rate, intermediate for interval from calving to first insemination and length of service period, and highest for length of service period and conception rate. The variance components estimated in this study have been used in Nordic fertility breeding value evaluations since 2016.