Invited review: Opportunities for genetic improvement of metabolic diseases Academic Article uri icon


  • Metabolic disorders are disturbances to one or more of the metabolic processes in dairy cattle. Dysfunction of any of these processes is associated with the manifestation of metabolic diseases or disorders. In this review, data recording, incidences, genetic parameters, predictors, and status of genetic evaluations were examined for (1) ketosis, (2) displaced abomasum, (3) milk fever, and (4) tetany, as these are the most prevalent metabolic diseases where published genetic parameters are available. The reported incidences of clinical cases of metabolic disorders are generally low (less than 10% of cows are recorded as having a metabolic disease per herd per year or parity/lactation). Heritability estimates are also low and are typically less than 5%. Genetic correlations between metabolic traits are mainly positive, indicating that selection to improve one of these diseases is likely to have a positive effect on the others. Furthermore, there may also be opportunities to select for general disease resistance in terms of metabolic stability. Although there is inconsistency in published genetic correlation estimates between milk yield and metabolic traits, selection for milk yield may be expected to lead to a deterioration in metabolic disorders. Under-recording and difficulty in diagnosing subclinical cases are among the reasons why interest is growing in using easily measurable predictors of metabolic diseases, either recorded on-farm by using sensors and milk tests or off-farm using data collected from routine milk recording. Some countries have already initiated genetic evaluations of metabolic disease traits and currently most of these use clinical observations of disease. However, there are opportunities to use clinical diseases in addition to predictor traits and genomic information to strengthen genetic evaluations for metabolic health in the future.


  • Pryce, JE
  • Gaddis, KLP
  • Koeck, A
  • Bastin, C
  • Abdelsayed, M
  • Gengler, N
  • Miglior, F
  • Heringstad, B
  • Egger-Danner, C
  • Stock, KF
  • Bradley, AJ
  • Cole, JB

publication date

  • 2016