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Heritability of Electronically Recorded Daily Body Weight and Correlations with Yield, Dry Matter Intake, and Body Condition Score

Toshniwal, J.K., Dechow, C.D., Cassell, B.G., Appuhamy, J.A.D.R.N., Varga, G.A.
Journal of dairy science 2008 v.91 no.8 pp. 3201-3210
dairy cows, milk protein yield, temporal variation, body weight, body condition, genetic correlation, lactation, milk fat yield, heritability, dry matter intake, Pennsylvania, Virginia
The objectives of this study were to estimate heritability for daily body weight (BW) and genetic correlations of daily BW with daily milk yield (MY), body condition score (BCS), dry matter intake, fat yield, and protein yield. The Afiweigh cow body weighing system records BW of every cow exiting the milking parlor. The Afiweigh system was installed at the Pennsylvania State University dairy herd in August 2001 and in July 2004 at the Virginia Tech dairy herd. The edited data included 202,143 daily BW and 290,930 daily MY observations from 575 Pennsylvania State University and 120 Virginia Tech Holstein cows. Data were initially analyzed with a series of 4-trait animal models, followed by random regression models. The models included fixed effects for age within lactation group, week of lactation, and herd-date. Random effects included animal, permanent environment, and error. The order of the polynomials for random animal and permanent environmental effects with the random regression model for daily BW was 4 and 6, respectively. Heritability estimates for daily BW ranged from 0.48 to 0.57 and were largest between 200 and 230 and smallest at 305 d of lactation. Genetic correlations were large between BW and BCS (0.60). The genetic correlation between daily BW and MY was -0.14 but was positive (0.24) after adjusting for BCS. Electronically recorded daily BW is highly heritable, and genetic evaluations of daily BW and BW change across the lactation could be used to select for less early lactation BW loss.