• Accuracy of predicting milk yield from alternative milk recording schemes

      Berry, Donagh P.; Olori, V. E.; Cromie, A.R.; Veerkamp, R. F.; Rath, M.; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2005-02)
      The effect of reducing the frequency of official milk recording and the number of recorded samples per test-day on the accuracy of predicting daily yield and cumulative 305-day yield was investigated. A control data set consisting of 58 210 primiparous cows with milk test-day records every 4 weeks was used to investigate the influence of reduced milk recording frequencies. The accuracy of prediction of daily yield with one milk sample per test-day was investigated using 41 874 testday records from 683 cows. Results show that five or more test-day records taken at 8-weekly intervals (A8) predicted 305-day yield with a high level of accuracy. Correlations between 305-day yield predicted from 4-weekly recording intervals (A4) and from 8-weekly intervals were 0.99, 0.98 and 0.98 for milk, fat and protein, respectively. The mean error in estimating 305-day yield from the A8 scheme was 6.8 kg (s.d. 191 kg) for milk yield, 0.3 kg (s.d. 10 kg) for fat yield, and −0.3 kg (s.d. 7 kg) for protein yield, compared with the A4 scheme. Milk yield and composition taken during either morning (AM) or evening (PM) milking predicted 24-h yield with a high degree of accuracy. Alternating between AM and PM sampling every 4 weeks predicted 305-day yield with a higher degree of accuracy than either all AM or all PM sampling. Alternate AM-PM recording every 4 weeks and AM + PM recording every 8 weeks produced very similar accuracies in predicting 305-day yield compared with the official AM + PM recording every 4 weeks.
    • Additive genetic, non-additive genetic and permanent environmental effects for female reproductive performance in seasonal calving dairy females

      Kelleher, M.M.; Buckley, Frank; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2016-09-08)
      Excellent reproductive performance (i.e. 365-day calving interval) is paramount to herd profit in seasonal-calving dairy systems. Reproductive targets are currently not being achieved in Irish dairy herds. Furthermore, most research on the genetics of reproductive performance in dairy cattle has focused primarily on lactating cows and relatively few studies have attempted to quantify the genetic contribution to differences in reproductive performance in nulliparae. The objective of the present study was to estimate the contribution of both the additive and non-additive genetic components, as well as the permanent environmental component, to phenotypic variation in the reproductive traits in nulliparous, primiparous and multiparous seasonal-calving dairy females. Reproductive phenotypes were available on up to 202,525 dairy females. Variance components were estimated using (repeatability where appropriate) linear animal mixed models; fixed effects included in the mixed models were contemporary group, parity (where appropriate), breed proportion, inter-breed specific heterosis coefficients and inter-breed specific recombination loss coefficients. Heritability of the reproductive traits ranged from 0.004 (pregnancy rate to first service) to 0.17 (age at first service in nulliparae), while repeatability estimates for the reproductive traits in cows ranged from 0.01 (calving interval) to 0.11 (pregnant in the first 42 days of the breeding season). Breed-specific heterosis regression coefficients suggest that, relative to the parental mean, a first-cross Holstein–Jersey crossbred was almost 7 days younger at first calving, had a 9-day shorter calving interval, a 6 percentage unit greater pregnancy rate in the first 42 days of the breeding season and a 3 percentage unit greater survival rate to next lactation. Heifer calving rate traits were strongly genetically correlated with age at first calving (–0.97 to –0.66) and calving rate in the first 42 days of the calving season for first parity cows (0.77 to 0.56), but genetic correlations with other cow reproductive traits were weak and inconsistent. Calving interval was strongly genetically correlated with the majority of the cow traits; 56%, 40%, and 92% of the genetic variation in calving interval was explained by calving to the first service interval, number of services and pregnant in the first 42 days of the breeding season, respectively. Permanent environmental correlations between the reproductive performance traits were generally moderate to strong. The existence of contributions from non-additive genetic and permanent environmental effects to phenotypic differences among cows suggests the usefulness of such information to rank cows on future expected performance; this was evidenced by a stronger correlation with future reproductive performance for an individual cow index that combined additive genetic, non-additive genetic and permanent environmental effects compared to an index based solely on additive genetic effects (i.e. estimated breeding values).
    • Administration of a live culture of Lactococcus lactis DPC 3147 into the bovine mammary gland stimulates the local host immune response, particularly IL-1β and IL-8 gene expression

      Beecher, Christine; Daly, Mairead; Berry, Donagh P.; Klostermann, Katja; Flynn, James; Meaney, William J; Hill, Colin; McCarthy, Tommie V.; Ross, R Paul; Giblin, Linda (Cambridge University Press: Published for the Institute of Food Research and the Hannah Research Institute, 2009-05-18)
      Mastitis is one of the most costly diseases to the dairy farming industry. Conventional antibiotic therapy is often unsatisfactory for successful treatment of mastitis and alternative treatments are continually under investigation. We have previously demonstrated, in two separate field trials, that a probiotic culture, Lactococcus lactis DPC 3147, was comparable to antibiotic therapy to treat bovine mastitis. To understand the mode of action of this therapeutic, we looked at the detailed immune response of the host to delivery of this live strain directly into the mammary gland of six healthy dairy cows. All animals elicited signs of udder inflammation 7 h post infusion. At this time, clots were visible in the milk of all animals in the investigation. The most pronounced increase in immune gene expression was observed in Interleukin (IL)-1b and IL-8, with highest expression corresponding to peaks in somatic cell count. Infusion with a live culture of a Lc. lactis leads to a rapid and considerable innate immune response.
    • Association between body condition score and live weight in pasture-based Holstein-Friesian dairy cows

      Berry, Donagh P.; Macdonald, Kevin A.; Penno, John W.; Roche, John R. (Cambridge University Press: Published for the Institute of Food Research and the Hannah Research Institute, 2006-11)
      The objective was to quantify the strength of the relationship between body condition score (BCS) and live weight (LW) in pasture-based Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle, and to determine the kg LW per unit BCS. A total of 26021 test-day records with information on both BCS (1–10 scale, where 1 is emaciated and 10 is obese) and LW across 1110 lactations from one research farm were used in the analysis. Correlation and regression analyses were used to determine the degree of association between BCS and LW in different parities, stages of the inter-calving interval and years. Correlations between BCS and LW were relatively consistent, with the mean correlation between BCS and LW across all data of 0·55 implying that differences in BCS explain approximately 30% of the variation in LW. Significantly different regressions of LW on BCS were present within stage of inter-calving interval by parity subclasses. Excluding calving, LW per unit BCS varied from 17 kg (early to mid lactation in parity 1) to 36 kg (early lactation in parity 4 and 5). However, LW per unit BCS was greatest at calving varying from 44 kg in first parity animals to 62 kg in second parity animals. On average, 1 BCS unit equated to 31 kg LW across all data.
    • Association of bovine leptin polymorphisms with energy output and energy storage traits in progeny tested Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle sires

      Giblin, Linda; Butler, Stephen T.; Kearney, Breda M.; Waters, Sinead M.; Callanan, Michael J.; Berry, Donagh P. (Biomed Central, 2010-07-29)
      Background: Leptin modulates appetite, energy expenditure and the reproductive axis by signalling via its receptor the status of body energy stores to the brain. The present study aimed to quantify the associations between 10 novel and known single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes coding for leptin and leptin receptor with performance traits in 848 Holstein-Friesian sires, estimated from performance of up to 43,117 daughter-parity records per sire. Results: All single nucleotide polymorphisms were segregating in this sample population and none deviated (P > 0.05) from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Complete linkage disequilibrium existed between the novel polymorphism LEP-1609, and the previously identified polymorphisms LEP-1457 and LEP-580. LEP-2470 associated (P < 0.05) with milk protein concentration and calf perinatal mortality. It had a tendency to associate with milk yield (P < 0.1). The G allele of LEP-1238 was associated (P < 0.05) with reduced milk fat concentration, reduced milk protein concentration, longer gestation length and tended to associate (P < 0.1) with an increase in calving difficulty, calf perinatal mortality and somatic cells in the milk. LEP-963 exhibited an association (P < 0.05) with milk fat concentration, milk protein concentration, calving difficulty and gestation length. It also tended to associate with milk yield (P < 0.1). The R25C SNP associated (P < 0.05) with milk fat concentration, milk protein concentration, calving difficulty and length of gestation. The T allele of the Y7F SNP significantly associated with reduced angularity (P < 0.01) and reduced milk protein yield (P < 0.05). There was also a tendency (P < 0.1) for Y7F to associate with increased body condition score, reduced milk yield and shorter gestation (P < 0.1). A80V associated with reduced survival in the herd (P < 0.05). Conclusions Several leptin polymorphisms (LEP-2470, LEP-1238, LEP-963, Y7F and R25C) associated with the energetically expensive process of lactogenesis. Only SNP Y7F associated with energy storage. Associations were also observed between leptin polymorphisms and calving difficulty, gestation length and calf perinatal mortality. The lack of an association between the leptin variants investigated with calving interval in this large data set would question the potential importance of these leptin variants, or indeed leptin, in selection for improved fertility in the Holstein-Friesian dairy cow.
    • Associations between herd size, rate of expansion and production, breeding policy and reproduction in spring-calving dairy herds

      Jago, J. G.; Berry, Donagh P. (Cambridge University Press, 2011-04)
      Dairy herd size is expected to increase in many European countries, given the recent policy changes within the European Union. Managing more cows may have implications for herd performance in the post-quota era. The objective of this study was to characterise spring-calving herds according to size and rate of expansion, and to determine trends in breeding policy, reproduction and production performance, which will inform industry of the likely implications of herd expansion. Performance data from milk recording herds comprising 775 795 lactations from 2555 herds for the years 2004 to 2008 inclusive were available from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation. Herds were classified into Small (average of 37 cows), Medium (average of 54 cows) and Large (average of 87 cows) and separately into herds that were not expanding (Nil expansion), herds expanding on average by three cows per year (Slow expansion) and herds expanding on average by eight cows per year (Rapid expansion). There was no association between rate of expansion and 305-day fat and protein yield. However, 305-day milk yield decreased and milk protein and fat percentage increased with increasing rate of expansion. There were no associations between herd size and milk production except for protein and fat percentage, which increased with increasing herd size. Average parity number of the cows decreased as rate of expansion increased and tended to decrease as herd size increased. In rapidly expanding herds, cow numbers were increased by purchasing more cattle. The proportion of dairy sires relative to beef sires used in the breeding programme of expanding herds increased and there was more dairy crossbreeding, albeit at a low rate. Similarly, large herds were using more dairy sires and fewer beef sires. Expanding herds and large herds had superior reproductive performance relative to non-expanding and small herds. Animals in expanding herds calved for the first time at a younger age, had a shorter calving interval and were submitted for breeding by artificial insemination at a higher rate. The results give confidence to dairy producers likely to undergo significant expansion post-quota such that, despite managing more cows, production and reproductive performance need not decline. The management skills required to achieve these performance levels need investigation.
    • Associations between the K232A polymorphism in the diacylglycerol-O-transferase 1 (DGAT1) gene and performance in Irish Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle

      Berry, Donagh P.; Howard, Dawn J.; O'Boyle, P.; Waters, Sinead M.; Kearney, J.F.; McCabe, M. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2010)
      Selection based on genetic polymorphisms requires accurate quantification of the effect or association of the polymorphisms with all traits of economic importance. The objective of this study was to estimate, using progeny performance data on 848 Holstein-Friesian bulls, the association between a non-conservative alanine to lysine amino acid change (K232A) in exon 8 of the diacylglycerol-O-transferase 1 (DGAT1) gene and milk production and functionality in the Irish Holstein-Friesian population. The DGAT1 gene encodes the diacylglycerol-O-transferase microsomal enzyme necessary to catalyze the final step in triglyceride synthesis. Weighted mixed model methodology, accounting for the additive genetic relationships among animals, was used to evaluate the association between performance and the K232A polymorphism. The minor allele frequency (K allele) was 0.32. One copy of the K allele was associated (P < 0.001) with 77 kg less milk yield, 4.22 kg more fat yield, 0.99 kg less protein yield, and 1.30 and 0.28 g/kg greater milk fat and protein concentration, respectively; all traits were based on predicted 305-day production across the first five lactations. The K232A polymorphism explained 4.8%, 10.3% and 1.0% of the genetic variance in milk yield, fat yield and protein yield, respectively. There was no association between the K232A polymorphism and fertility, functional survival, calving performance, carcass traits, or any conformation trait with the exception of rump width and carcass conformation. Using the current economic values for the milk production traits in the Irish total merit index, one copy of the K allele is worth €5.43 in expected profitability of progeny. Results from this study will be useful in quantifying the cost-benefit of including the K232A polymorphism in the Irish national breeding programme.
    • Body condition score and live-weight effects on milk production in Irish Holstein-Friesian dairy cows

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2007-10)
      The objective of the present study was to quantify the relationships among body condition score (BCS; scale 1 to 5), live weight (WT) and milk production in Irish Holstein-Friesian spring calving dairy cows. Data were from 66 commercial dairy herds during the years 1999 and 2000. The data consisted of up to 9886 lactations with records for BCS or WT at least once pre-calving, or at calving, nadir or 60 days post-calving. Change in BCS and WT was also calculated between time periods. Mixed models with cow included as a random effect were used to quantify the effect of BCS and WT, as well as change in each trait, on milk yield, milk fat concentration and milk protein concentration. Significant and sometimes curvilinear associations were observed among BCS at calving or nadir and milk production. Total 305-day milk yield was greatest in cows calving at a BCS of 4.25 units. However, cows calving at a BCS of 3.50 units produced only 68 kg less milk than cows calving at a BCS of 4.25 units while cows calving at 3.25 or 3.00 BCS units produced a further 50 and 114 kg less, respectively. Cows that lost more condition in early lactation produced more milk of greater fat and protein concentration, although the trend reversed in cows that lost large amounts of condition post-calving. Milk yield increased with WT although the marginal effect decreased as cows got heavier. Milk fat and protein concentration in early lactation also increased with WT pre-calving, calving and nadir, although WT did not significantly affect average lactation milk fat concentration.
    • A catalogue of validated single nucleotide polymorphisms in bovine orthologs of mammalian imprinted genes and associations with beef production traits

      Magee, D. A.; Berkowicz, Erik W; Sikora, K. M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Park, S. D. E.; Kelly, A. K.; Sweeney, T.; Kenny, David A.; Evans, R. D.; Wickham, B. W.; Spillane, C.; MacHugh, D. E. (Cambridge University Press, 2010-06)
      Genetic (or ‘genomic’) imprinting, a feature of approximately 100 mammalian genes, results in monoallelic expression from one of the two parentally inherited chromosomes. To date, most studies have been directed on imprinted genes in murine or human models; however, there is burgeoning interest in the effects of imprinted genes in domestic livestock species. In particular, attention has focused on imprinted genes that influence foetal growth and development and that are associated with several economically important production traits in cattle, sheep and pigs. We have re-sequenced regions in 20 candidate bovine imprinted genes in order to validate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that may influence important production traits in cattle. Putative SNPs detected via re-sequencing were subsequently re-formatted for high-throughput SNP genotyping in 185 cattle samples comprising 138 performance-tested European Bos taurus (all Limousin bulls), 29 African B. taurus and 18 Indian B. indicus samples. Analysis of the resulting genotypic data identified 117 validated SNPs. Preliminary genotype–phenotype association analyses using 83 SNPs that were polymorphic in the Limousin samples with minor allele frequencies >0.05 revealed significant associations between two candidate bovine imprinted genes and a range of important beef production traits: average daily gain, average feed intake, live weight, feed conversion ratio, residual feed intake and residual gain. These genes were the Ras proteinspecific guanine nucleotide releasing factor gene ( RASGRF1) and the zinc finger, imprinted 2 gene ( ZIM2). Despite the relatively small sample size used in these analyses, the observed associations with production traits are supported by the purported biological function of the RASGRF1 and ZIM2 gene products. These results support the hypothesis that imprinted genes contribute significantly to important complex production traits in cattle. Furthermore, these SNPs may be usefully incorporated into future marker-assisted and genomic selection breeding schemes.
    • Comparison of growth curves of three strains of female dairy cattle

      Berry, Donagh P.; Horan, Brendan; Dillon, Pat (Cambridge University Press, 2005-04)
      The objective of the present study was to compare growth curves for live weight (LW) and body size of three strains of female dairy cattle reared under common environments in Ireland. One strain (HP) was selected from a predominantly North-American/European Holstein-Friesian genetic pool selected for high milk production. The second strain (HD) represented a predominantly North-American/European Holstein-Friesian genetic pool selected for high milk production but with greater selection emphasis on functional non-production traits. The third strain (NZ) consisted of New Zealand Holstein-Friesian females of high genetic merit for profitability in New Zealand. The data consisted of 99 animals (33 animals in each strain) with records on LW, length, girth and height from birth to a minimum of 594 days of age. The von Bertalanffy growth function was fitted to each animal's records separately and least-squares analyses were used to investigate the effect of strain on birth LW/body size, parameters of the growth function and average daily gains. Average mature live weight of the HD animals (591 kg) was significantly larger than that of the HP (566 kg) or NZ (543 kg) strain; the HD strain matured more slowly. The HD (134 cm) and HP (135 cm) strains were significantly taller than the NZ (128 cm) strain. Although the data set was relatively small there are indications that dairy females of North-American genetic origin were heavier at birth, grew faster, and were heavier and taller at maturity than dairy females of New Zealand origin.
    • Cow factors affecting the risk of clinical mastitis

      Berry, Donagh P.; Meaney, William J (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2005)
      The objective of the present study was to identify cow risk factors associated with development of clinical mastitis (CM) in subsequent stages of lactation. A total of 3,309 lactations from spring-calving Holstein-Friesian cows were included in the analysis; parity number ranged from one to three, inclusive. A generalised estimating equations approach with a logit link function was used to account for the binary nature of the data and the unequal number of repeated records per cow. The dependent variable was the probability of developing CM in the subsequent stage of lactation. Independent variables included in the model were chosen using stepwise selection; herd, year of birth, month of calving, parity, period of lactation and previous CM history significantly affected the probability of CM. Two-way interactions between parity and period of lactation and between parity and incidence of CM in the previous lactation were also included in the model. A greater probability of developing CM is expected in cows that experienced CM in the previous lactation and/or previously within the same lactation. The probability of CM occurring in cows that experienced at least one case of CM in the previous lactation was 0.92 to 3.75 times that of a cow that experienced no CM in the previous lactation. It is possible to predict the probability of an animal developing CM in the subsequent stage of lactation when information is available on the parity and month of calving of the animal and its previous history of CM.
    • Cow welfare in grass based milk production systems

      Boyle, Laura; Olmos, G.; Llamas Moya, S.; Palmer, M.A.; Gleeson, David E; O’Brien, Bernadette; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh P.; Arkins, S.; Alonso Gómez, M.; Mee, John F (Teagasc, 2008-08-01)
      Under this project, aspects of pasture based milk production systems, namely different milking frequency and feeding strategies as well as genetic selection for improved fitness using the Irish Economic Breeding Index (EBI) were evaluated in terms of dairy cow behaviour, health, immune function and reproductive performance. Additionally, a typical Irish pasture based system was compared to one in which cows were kept indoors in cubicles and fed a total mixed ration for the duration of lactation in order to elucidate the perceived benefits of pasture based systems for dairy cow welfare.
    • Dairy cattle breeding objectives combining production and non-production traits for pasture based systems in Ireland.

      Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat; Veerkamp, R.F. (Teagasc, 2005-11-01)
      The objectives of this study were: 1) to estimate genetic (co) variances among body condition score, body weight, milk production, linear type traits and fertility, and 2) to investigate the presence of genotype by environment interactions for milk production, body condition score, and body weight, in Irish grass based seasonal calving herds. Genetic parameters were estimated from a potential 8928 primiparous and multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows over two years (1999 and 2000). Heritability estimates for body condition score (BCS) and body weight (BW) were found to be moderate to high; estimates ranged from 0.27 to 0.51 for BCS, and from 0.39 to 0.61 for BW. Heritability estimates for BCS change and BW change at different stages of lactation were all less than 0.11. Heritability for the linear type traits varied from 0.11 to 0.43. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between BCS and BW at the same stage of lactation were all close to 0.50 indicating that approximately 25% of the genetic and phenotypic variation in BW may be attributed to differences in BCS. Genetic correlations between BCS and milk yield tended to be negative (-0.14 to –0.51) and genetic correlations between BW and milk yield were close to zero (-0.07 to 0.09). However, the genetic correlations between BW adjusted for differences in BCS were positive (0.15 to 0.39). Genetic correlations between BCS and the fertility traits investigated were all favourable, indicating that cows with a superior genetic merit for BCS are on average likely to be served sooner, receive less services and have higher pregnancy rates. The genetic correlations between linear type traits and milk yield indicate that selection for milk production has resulted in taller, deeper cows that tend to be more angular and have less body condition. Genetically these cows are predisposed to inferior reproductive efficiency. Moderate genetic correlations were found between some of the linear type traits investigated and somatic cell count. A comparison of BCS, as recorded by Teagasc personnel (scale 1-5) and Holstein herd-book classifiers (scale 1-9) indicated consistency between the two sources. Phenotypic and genetic correlations of 0.54 and 0.86, respectively, were observed between the two measurement sources on the same animals. Genotype by environment interactions, were found for milk yield across different silage quality environments, and for BCS across different herd-year milk yield, concentrate, grazing severity and silage quality environments.
    • Detection of selection signatures in dairy and beef cattle using high-density genomic information

      Zhao, Fuping; McParland, Sinead; Kearney, Francis; Du, Lixin; Berry, Donagh P. (Biomed Central, 2015-06-19)
      Background Artificial selection for economically important traits in cattle is expected to have left distinctive selection signatures on the genome. Access to high-density genotypes facilitates the accurate identification of genomic regions that have undergone positive selection. These findings help to better elucidate the mechanisms of selection and to identify candidate genes of interest to breeding programs. Results Information on 705 243 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 3122 dairy and beef male animals from seven cattle breeds (Angus, Belgian Blue, Charolais, Hereford, Holstein-Friesian, Limousin and Simmental) were used to detect selection signatures by applying two complementary methods, integrated haplotype score (iHS) and global fixation index (FST). To control for false positive results, we used false discovery rate (FDR) adjustment to calculate adjusted iHS within each breed and the genome-wide significance level was about 0.003. Using the iHS method, 83, 92, 91, 101, 85, 101 and 86 significant genomic regions were detected for Angus, Belgian Blue, Charolais, Hereford, Holstein-Friesian, Limousin and Simmental cattle, respectively. None of these regions was common to all seven breeds. Using the FST approach, 704 individual SNPs were detected across breeds. Annotation of the regions of the genome that showed selection signatures revealed several interesting candidate genes i.e. DGAT1, ABCG2, MSTN, CAPN3, FABP3, CHCHD7, PLAG1, JAZF1, PRKG2, ACTC1, TBC1D1, GHR, BMP2, TSG1, LYN, KIT and MC1R that play a role in milk production, reproduction, body size, muscle formation or coat color. Fifty-seven common candidate genes were found by both the iHS and global FST methods across the seven breeds. Moreover, many novel genomic regions and genes were detected within the regions that showed selection signatures; for some candidate genes, signatures of positive selection exist in the human genome. Multilevel bioinformatic analyses of the detected candidate genes suggested that the PPAR pathway may have been subjected to positive selection. Conclusions This study provides a high-resolution bovine genomic map of positive selection signatures that are either specific to one breed or common to a subset of the seven breeds analyzed. Our results will contribute to the detection of functional candidate genes that have undergone positive selection in future studies.
    • Development and implementation of genomic predictions in beef cattle

      Berry, Donagh P.; Garcia, J.F.; Garrick, D. J. (American Society of Animal Science, 2016-01-05)
      Beef production represents a considerable contribution to local and global economies and food security but also the environmental footprint of agricultural production systems. The development of accurate genomic evaluations in beef populations are more difficult than in dairy populations for reasons including the presence of multiple breeds, poor extent of phenotyping, lack of artificial insemination, and beef systems being generally a lower-margin business of poorer adopters of technology. Several options exist to minimize or overcome the limitations of developing accurate genomic evaluations for beef cattle.
    • DNA sequence polymorphisms in a panel of eight candidate bovine imprinted genes and their association with performance traits in Irish Holstein-Friesian cattle

      Magee, David A; Sikora, Klaudia M; Berkowicz, Erik W; Berry, Donagh P.; Howard, Dawn J; Mullen, Michael Paul; Evans, Ross D; Spillane, Charles; MacHugh, David E (Biomed Central, 2010-10-13)
      Background: Studies in mice and humans have shown that imprinted genes, whereby expression from one of the two parentally inherited alleles is attenuated or completely silenced, have a major effect on mammalian growth, metabolism and physiology. More recently, investigations in livestock species indicate that genes subject to this type of epigenetic regulation contribute to, or are associated with, several performance traits, most notably muscle mass and fat deposition. In the present study, a candidate gene approach was adopted to assess 17 validated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and their association with a range of performance traits in 848 progeny-tested Irish Holstein-Friesian artificial insemination sires. These SNPs are located proximal to, or within, the bovine orthologs of eight genes (CALCR, GRB10, PEG3, PHLDA2, RASGRF1, TSPAN32, ZIM2 and ZNF215) that have been shown to be imprinted in cattle or in at least one other mammalian species (i.e. human/mouse/pig/sheep). Results: Heterozygosities for all SNPs analysed ranged from 0.09 to 0.46 and significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg proportions (P ≤ 0.01) were observed at four loci. Phenotypic associations (P ≤ 0.05) were observed between nine SNPs proximal to, or within, six of the eight analysed genes and a number of performance traits evaluated, including milk protein percentage, somatic cell count, culled cow and progeny carcass weight, angularity, body conditioning score, progeny carcass conformation, body depth, rump angle, rump width, animal stature, calving difficulty, gestation length and calf perinatal mortality. Notably, SNPs within the imprinted paternally expressed gene 3 (PEG3) gene cluster were associated (P ≤ 0.05) with calving, calf performance and fertility traits, while a single SNP in the zinc finger protein 215 gene (ZNF215) was associated with milk protein percentage (P ≤ 0.05), progeny carcass weight (P ≤ 0.05), culled cow carcass weight (P ≤ 0.01), angularity (P ≤ 0.01), body depth (P ≤ 0.01), rump width (P ≤ 0.01) and animal stature (P ≤ 0.01). Conclusions: Of the eight candidate bovine imprinted genes assessed, DNA sequence polymorphisms in six of these genes (CALCR, GRB10, PEG3, RASGRF1, ZIM2 and ZNF215) displayed associations with several of the phenotypes included for analyses. The genotype-phenotype associations detected here are further supported by the biological function of these six genes, each of which plays important roles in mammalian growth, development and physiology. The associations between SNPs within the imprinted PEG3 gene cluster and traits related to calving, calf performance and gestation length suggest that this domain on chromosome 18 may play a role regulating pre-natal growth and development and fertility. SNPs within the bovine ZNF215 gene were associated with bovine growth and body conformation traits and studies in humans have revealed that the human ZNF215 ortholog belongs to the imprinted gene cluster associated with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome--a genetic disorder characterised by growth abnormalities. Similarly, the data presented here suggest that the ZNF215 gene may have an important role in regulating bovine growth. Collectively, our results support previous work showing that (candidate) imprinted genes/loci contribute to heritable variation in bovine performance traits and suggest that DNA sequence polymorphisms within these genes/loci represents an important reservoir of genomic markers for future genetic improvement of dairy and beef cattle populations.
    • DNA sequence polymorphisms within the bovine guanine nucleotide-binding protein Gs subunit alpha (Gsalpha)-encoding (GNAS) genomic imprinting domain are associated with performance traits

      Sikora, Klaudia M; Magee, David A; Berkowicz, Erik W; Berry, Donagh P.; Howard, Dawn J; Mullen, Michael Paul; Evans, Ross D; MacHugh, David E; Spillane, Charles (Biomed Central, 2011-01-07)
      Background: Genes which are epigenetically regulated via genomic imprinting can be potential targets for artificial selection during animal breeding. Indeed, imprinted loci have been shown to underlie some important quantitative traits in domestic mammals, most notably muscle mass and fat deposition. In this candidate gene study, we have identified novel associations between six validated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning a 97.6 kb region within the bovine guanine nucleotide-binding protein Gs subunit alpha gene (GNAS) domain on bovine chromosome 13 and genetic merit for a range of performance traits in 848 progeny-tested Holstein-Friesian sires. The mammalian GNAS domain consists of a number of reciprocally-imprinted, alternatively-spliced genes which can play a major role in growth, development and disease in mice and humans. Based on the current annotation of the bovine GNAS domain, four of the SNPs analysed (rs43101491, rs43101493, rs43101485 and rs43101486) were located upstream of the GNAS gene, while one SNP (rs41694646) was located in the second intron of the GNAS gene. The final SNP (rs41694656) was located in the first exon of transcripts encoding the putative bovine neuroendocrine-specific protein NESP55, resulting in an aspartic acid-to-asparagine amino acid substitution at amino acid position 192. Results: SNP genotype-phenotype association analyses indicate that the single intronic GNAS SNP (rs41694646) is associated (P ≤ 0.05) with a range of performance traits including milk yield, milk protein yield, the content of fat and protein in milk, culled cow carcass weight and progeny carcass conformation, measures of animal body size, direct calving difficulty (i.e. difficulty in calving due to the size of the calf) and gestation length. Association (P ≤ 0.01) with direct calving difficulty (i.e. due to calf size) and maternal calving difficulty (i.e. due to the maternal pelvic width size) was also observed at the rs43101491 SNP. Following adjustment for multiple-testing, significant association (q ≤ 0.05) remained between the rs41694646 SNP and four traits (animal stature, body depth, direct calving difficulty and milk yield) only. Notably, the single SNP in the bovine NESP55 gene (rs41694656) was associated (P ≤ 0.01) with somatic cell count--an often-cited indicator of resistance to mastitis and overall health status of the mammary system--and previous studies have demonstrated that the chromosomal region to where the GNAS domain maps underlies an important quantitative trait locus for this trait. This association, however, was not significant after adjustment for multiple testing. The three remaining SNPs assayed were not associated with any of the performance traits analysed in this study. Analysis of all pairwise linkage disequilibrium (r2) values suggests that most allele substitution effects for the assayed SNPs observed are independent. Finally, the polymorphic coding SNP in the putative bovine NESP55 gene was used to test the imprinting status of this gene across a range of foetal bovine tissues. Conclusions: Previous studies in other mammalian species have shown that DNA sequence variation within the imprinted GNAS gene cluster contributes to several physiological and metabolic disorders, including obesity in humans and mice. Similarly, the results presented here indicate an important role for the imprinted GNAS cluster in underlying complex performance traits in cattle such as animal growth, calving, fertility and health. These findings suggest that GNAS domain-associated polymorphisms may serve as important genetic markers for future livestock breeding programs and support previous studies that candidate imprinted loci may act as molecular targets for the genetic improvement of agricultural populations. In addition, we present new evidence that the bovine NESP55 gene is epigenetically regulated as a maternally expressed imprinted gene in placental and intestinal tissues from 8-10 week old bovine foetuses.
    • Do-it-yourself milk recording as a viable alternative to supervised milk recording in Ireland

      Berry, Donagh P.; Burke, M.; O'Keeffe, M.; O'Connor, P. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2006)
      The objective of the current study was to determine the feasibility of do-it-yourself (DIY) milk recording in commercial Irish dairy herds as well as the accuracy of predicting 24-h milk production and somatic cell count from part-day samples. The data consisted of 3,850 testday records from 1,565 cows across 23 herds in southern Ireland. Observed part-day and 24-h milk yield and composition were in accordance with previously reported observations in Ireland. Accurate prediction of 24-h milk, fat and protein yield was achieved using either AM or PM samples incorporated within prediction equations. Prediction of daily somatic cell count (SCC) was less accurate although the sensitivity and specificity of predicted daily SCC at identifying true daily SCC ≥ 200,000 was high. The accuracy of predicting 24-h fat and protein yield was augmented when two consecutive milk weights, simultaneous with one milk composition, were included in the prediction equation. Minimal effect on accuracy was observed when two milk weights were included in the prediction model for daily SCC. Thus, AM or PM SCC alone are as good, if not better, an indicator of daily SCC than predicted daily SCC using prediction equations. Milking interval defined as individual cowtestday interval measured in minutes fitted the data better than individual cow-testday interval rounded to the nearest half-hour, which was in turn superior to average herdtestday interval and average herd interval. Hence, results from this study suggest DIY milk recording is a viable alternative to supervised milk recording in Ireland.
    • Effect of genetic group and feed system on locomotion score, clinical lameness and hoof disorders of pasture-based Holstein–Friesian cows

      Olmos, G.; Boyle, Laura; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh P.; O'Connor, P.; Mee, John F; Hanlon, A. (Cambridge University Press, 2009-01)
      The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of the genetic group of the Holstein–Friesian (HF) and pasture-based feeding system (3 × 2 factorial arrangement) on locomotion score (six gait aspects scored from one to five), clinical lameness and hoof disorders within a seasonal calving milk production system. The three genetic groups compared had an average Economic Breeding Index (EBI) value of 40, 70 and 80: representing the Irish national average genetic merit (LOW-NA), high EBI genetic merit of North American ancestry (HIGH-NA) and high EBI genetic merit of New Zealand ancestry (HIGH-NZ), respectively. Two feed systems were compared: a high grass allowance, low-concentrate system typical of spring-calving herds in Ireland (control) and a high-concentrate system. Data from 126 cows collected across a complete lactation period were analysed using generalised estimating equations and survival analysis. Genetic group of HF had a significant effect on locomotion score, clinical lameness and hoof disorders. Higher EBI cows (HIGH-NA and HIGH-NZ) had lower hazard of poor locomotion score in some gait aspects (e.g. spine curvature) and lower odds of clinical lameness in the first 200 days post-calving (Odds ratios 0.08 and 0.24, respectively, relative to the LOW-NA) and some hoof disorders (e.g. traumatic lesions) compared with LOW-NA cows. The high-concentrate feed system showed a higher incidence and severity of digital dermatitis (P < 0.01). Thus, high EBI cows have better locomotion, fewer cases of clinical lameness and less-severe hoof disorders (i.e. digital dermatitis, white line disease and traumatic lesions) than low EBI cows. These findings have important implications for cow welfare and productivity.
    • The effect of Holstein-Friesian genotype and feeding system on selected performance parameters of dairy cows on grass-based systems of milk production in Ireland

      Dillon, Pat; O’Connor, Paula M.; McCarthy, S.; Shalloo, Laurence; Linnane, M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, James F.; Mee, John F; Horan, Brendan (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      The overall objective of this project was to assess, the effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, pasture-based feed system (FS) and their interaction on animal performance in terms of milk productivity and lactation profile, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), feed intake and energy balance (EB), reproductive performance and overall economic profitability.