Genetic parameters for health traits using data collected from genomic information nucleus herds Academic Article uri icon


  • As with many other countries, data availability has been a limitation in Australia for developing breeding values for health traits. A genomic information nucleus of approximately 100 herds across the country, selected on the basis of their record keeping, has recently been established in Australia and is known as Ginfo. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of developing genomic breeding values for health traits using farmer-collected data from Ginfo herds. Having this genotyped population opens up opportunities to develop new genomic breeding values, such as dairy health traits. In these herds, the 4 most recorded groups of health diseases identified were mastitis, reproductive problems, lameness, and metabolic disorders with incidence levels of 16, 9, 2, and 1.5%, respectively. Heritability estimates from pedigree and genomic analysis ranged from 0.01 to 0.03 for mastitis, 0.005 to 0.02 for reproductive disorders, 0 to 0.02 for lameness, and 0.00 to 0.06 for metabolic disorders. However, although heritability is low, there is sufficient genetic variation to make genetic progress feasible (coefficient of variation ranging from 3 to 26.3%). Genetic correlations between health and milk production traits (0.08 to 0.48) and overall type (-0.00 to 0.57) are unfavorable, but favorable with other economical traits, such as fertility (0.10 to 0.51), survival (-0.16 to -0.37), and somatic cell count (0.07 to 0.55). For a genomic reference population of 11,458 cows, the reliability of genomic predictions is comparatively low (<30%), but is promising for health traits, such as mastitis (∼30%) and a broader-based all disease trait (∼28%), when bulls have daughters in the reference population, but not when they only have genomic information (0 to 18%). Further improvement of the reliabilities of health breeding values continues to be an important objective. The study has provided a good foundation for future research to develop breeding values for health traits.

publication date

  • 2017