Improving the reliability of female fertility breeding values using type and milk yield traits that predict energy status in Australian Holstein cattle Academic Article uri icon


  • The objectives of this study were (1) to propose changing the selection criteria trait for evaluating fertility in Australia from calving interval to conception rate at d 42 after the beginning of the mating season and (2) to use type traits as early fertility predictors, to increase the reliability of estimated breeding values for fertility. The breeding goal in Australia is conception within 6 wk of the start of the mating season. Currently, the Australian model to predict fertility breeding values (expressed as a linear transformation of calving interval) is a multitrait model that includes calving interval (CVI), lactation length (LL), calving to first service (CFS), first nonreturn rate (FNRR), and conception rate. However, CVI has a lower genetic correlation with the breeding goal (conception within 6 wk of the start of the mating season) than conception rate. Milk yield, type, and fertility data from 164,318 cow sired by 4,766 bulls were used. Principal component analysis and genetic correlation estimates between type and fertility traits were used to select type traits that could subsequently be used in a multitrait analysis. Angularity, foot angle, and pin set were chosen as type traits to include in an index with the traits that are included in the multitrait fertility model: CVI, LL, CFS, FNRR, and conception rate at d 42 (CR42). An index with these 8 traits is expected to achieve an average bull first proof reliability of 0.60 on the breeding objective (conception within 6 wk of the start of the mating season) compared with reliabilities of 0.39 and 0.45 for CR42 only or the current 5-trait Australian model. Subsequently, we used the first eigenvector of a principal component analysis with udder texture, bone quality, angularity, and body condition score to calculate an energy status indicator trait. The inclusion of the energy status indicator trait composite in a multitrait index with CVI, LL, CFS, FNRR, and CR42 achieved a 12-point increase in fertility breeding value reliability (i.e., increased by 30%; up to 0.72 points of reliability), whereas a lower increase in reliability (4 points, i.e., increased by 10%) was obtained by including angularity, foot angle, and pin set in the index. In situations when a limited number of daughters have been phenotyped for CR42, including type data for sires increased reliabilities compared with when type data were omitted. However, sires with more than 80 daughters with CR42 records achieved reliability estimates close to 80% on average, and there did not appear to be a benefit from having daughters with type records. The cost of phenotyping to obtain such reliabilities (assuming a cost of AU$14 per cow with type data and AU$5 per cow with pregnancy diagnosed) is lower if more pregnancy data are collected in preference to type data. That is, efforts to increase the reliability of fertility EBV are most cost effective when directed at obtaining a larger number of pregnancy tests.


publication date

  • 2016