Genomic prediction of serum biomarkers of health in early lactation Academic Article uri icon


  • In this study, we estimated genetic parameters and genomic prediction accuracies of serum biomarkers of health in early-lactation dairy cows. A single serum sample was taken from 1,393 cows, located on 14 farms in southeastern Australia, within 30 d after calving. Sera were analyzed for biomarkers of energy balance (β-hydroxybutyrate and fatty acids), macromineral status (Ca and Mg), protein nutritional status (urea and albumin), and immune status (globulins, albumin-to-globulin ratio, and haptoglobin). After editing, 47,162 SNP marker genotypes were used to estimate genomic heritabilities and breeding values (GEBV) for these traits in ASReml. Heritabilities were low for β-hydroxybutyrate, fatty acids, Ca, Mg, and urea (0.09 ± 0.04, 0.18 ± 0.05, 0.07 ± 0.04, 0.19 ± 0.06, and 0.18 ± 0.05, respectively), and moderate for albumin, globulins, and albumin-to-globulin ratio (0.27 ± 0.06, 0.46 ± 0.06, and 0.41 ± 0.06, respectively). The heritability of haptoglobin concentration was close to 0. The magnitude of genetic correlations between traits (estimated using bivariate models) varied considerably (0.01 to 0.96), and standard errors of these correlations were high (0.02 to 0.44). Interestingly, the direction of most genetic correlations was favorable, suggesting that selecting for more optimal concentrations of one biomarker may result in more optimal concentrations of other biomarkers. Correlations between biomarker GEBV and existing breeding values for survival, somatic cell count, and daughter fertility were small to moderate (0.07 to 0.45) and favorable, whereas correlations with breeding values for milk production traits were small (≤0.15). Accuracies of GEBV were evaluated by using 5-fold cross validation, and by calculating accuracies from prediction error variances associated with the GEBV. Accuracies of GEBV predicted using 5-fold cross validation were low (0.05 to 0.27), whereas the means of individual accuracies were greater, ranging from 0.31 to 0.51. Although increasing the size of the reference population should theoretically improve accuracies, our results suggest that genomic prediction of health biomarkers may allow identification of cows that are less susceptible to diseases in early lactation.

publication date

  • 2019