Short communication: Implementation of a breeding value for heat tolerance in Australian dairy cattle Academic Article uri icon


  • Excessive ambient temperature and humidity can impair milk production and fertility of dairy cows. Selection for heat-tolerant animals is one possible option to mitigate the effects of heat stress. To enable selection for this trait, we describe the development of a heat tolerance breeding value for Australian dairy cattle. We estimated the direct genomic values of decline in milk, fat, and protein yield per unit increase of temperature-humidity index (THI) using 46,726 single nucleotide polymorphisms and a reference population of 2,236 sires and 11,853 cows for Holsteins and 506 sires and 4,268 cows for Jerseys. This new direct genomic value is the Australian genomic breeding value for heat tolerance (HT ABVg). The components of the HT ABVg are the decline in milk, fat, and protein per unit increase in THI when THI increases above the threshold of 60. These components are weighted by their respective economic values, assumed to be equivalent to the weights applied to milk, fat, and protein yield in the Australian selection indices. Within each breed, the HT ABVg is then standardized to have a mean of 100 and standard deviation (SD) of 5, which is consistent with the presentation of breeding values for many other traits in Australia. The HT ABVg ranged from -4 to +3 SD in Holsteins and -3 to +4 SD in Jerseys. The mean reliabilities of HT ABVg among validation sires, calculated from the prediction error variance and additive genetic variance, were 38% in both breeds. The range in ABVg and their reliability suggests that HT can be improved using genomic selection. There has been a deterioration in the genetic trend of HT, and to moderate the decline it is suggested that the HT ABVg should be included in a multitrait economic index with other traits that contribute to farm profit.

publication date

  • 2017