• 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).
    • Genetic relationships between detailed reproductive traits and performance traits in Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle

      Carthy, T. R.; Ryan, D. P.; Fitzgerald, A. M.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2015-12-17)
      The objective of the study was to estimate the genetic relationships between detailed reproductive traits derived from ultrasound examination of the reproductive tract and a range of performance traits in Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. The performance traits investigated included calving performance, milk production, somatic cell score (i.e., logarithm transformation of somatic cell count), carcass traits, and body-related linear type traits. Detailed reproductive traits included (1) resumed cyclicity at the time of examination, (2) multiple ovulations, (3) early ovulation, (4) heat detection, (5) ovarian cystic structures, (6) embryo loss, and (7) uterine score, measured on a 1 (little or no fluid with normal tone) to 4 (large quantity of fluid with a flaccid tone) scale, based on the tone of the uterine wall and the quantity of fluid present in the uterus. (Co)variance components were estimated using a repeatability animal linear mixed model. Genetic merit for greater milk, fat, and protein yield was associated with a reduced ability to resume cyclicity postpartum (genetic correlations ranged from −0.25 to −0.15). Higher genetic merit for milk yield was also associated with a greater genetic susceptibility to multiple ovulations. Genetic predisposition to elevated somatic cell score was associated with a decreased likelihood of cyclicity postpartum (genetic correlation of −0.32) and a greater risk of both multiple ovulations (genetic correlation of 0.25) and embryo loss (genetic correlation of 0.32). Greater body condition score was genetically associated with an increased likelihood of resumption of cyclicity postpartum (genetic correlation of 0.52). Genetically heavier, fatter carcasses with better conformation were also associated with an increased likelihood of resumed cyclicity by the time of examination (genetic correlations ranged from 0.24 to 0.41). Genetically heavier carcasses were associated with an inferior uterine score as well as a greater predisposition to embryo loss. Despite the overall antagonistic relationship between reproductive performance and both milk and carcass traits, not all detailed aspects of reproduction performance exhibited an antagonistic relationship.
    • Genetics of reproductive performance in seasonal calving beef cows and its association with performance traits

      Berry, Donagh P.; Evans, R.D. (American Society of Animal Science, 2014-11-24)
      Due primarily to a lack of phenotypic data, little research has been undertaken on the genetics of reproductive performance in beef cattle. The objective of this study was to quantify, using data from the Irish national cattle herd, the contribution of additive genetics to phenotypic differences in reproductive performance in beef cattle and to investigate whether routinely available early predictors of genetic merit for reproductive performance exist. Up to 218,718 parity records from 156,506 animals were used to estimate variance components for a range of reproductive traits using repeatability animal linear mixed models. Covariances with performance traits were estimated using bivariate sire linear mixed models. The reproductive traits were age at first calving, calving in the first 42 d of the calving seasons (defined separately in heifers and cows), calving interval between consecutive calving events, and survival to the next lactation. Performance traits included calving dystocia, linear type traits describing the skeletal, muscular, and functional characteristics of an animal, live weight and price, carcass traits, and producer subjectively scored traits of weanling quality and docility. Heritability for age at first calving was 0.31 while the heritability of the remaining reproductive traits ranged from 0.01 to 0.06; repeatability estimates varied from 0.02 to 0.06. Increased muscularity, measured either by trained assessors or producers on live animals, or by mechanical grading machines on slaughtered animals (i.e., carcass conformation), was genetically correlated with reduced reproductive performance for some of the reproductive variables assessed. This is one of the largest studies undertaken on the genetics of reproduction in beef herds and clearly shows that genetic selection for improved reproductive performance in beef herds is feasible. However, breeding goals that select for muscularity and live weight or growth rate should be cognizant of indirect response to selection that may cause any deterioration in reproductive performance.
    • Validation and Improvement of the Beef Production Sub-index in Ireland for Beef Cattle

      Drennan, Michael J; McGee, Mark; Clarke, A. M.; Kenny, D.A.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P. (Teagasc, 2009-12-01)
      The objectives of the following study were to: a. Quantify the effect of sire genetic merit for BCI on: 1. feed intake, growth and carcass traits of progeny managed under bull or steer beef production systems. 2. live animal scores, carcass composition and plasma hormone and metabolite concentrations in their progeny. b. Compare the progeny of : 1. Late-maturing beef with dairy breeds and 2. Charolais (CH), Limousin (LM), Simmental (SM) and Belgian Blue (BB) sires bred to beef suckler dams, for feed intake, blood hormones and metabolites, live animal measurements, carcass traits and carcass value in bull and steer production systems.
    • Validation and Improvement of the Beef Production Sub-index in Ireland for Beef Cattle

      Drennan, M.J.; McGee, Michael; Clarke, A.M.; Kenny, David A.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P. (Teagasc, 2008-01-01)
      The objectives of the following study were to: a. Quantify the effect of sire genetic merit for BCI on: 1. feed intake, growth and carcass traits of progeny managed under bull or steer beef production systems. 2. live animal scores, carcass composition and plasma hormone and metabolite concentrations in their progeny. b. Compare the progeny of : 1. Late-maturing beef with dairy breeds and 2. Charolais (CH), Limousin (LM), Simmental (SM) and Belgian Blue (BB) sires bred to beef suckler dams, for feed intake, blood hormones and
    • Validation of national genetic evaluations for maternal beef cattle traits using Irish field data

      McHugh, Noirin; Cromie, A.R.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P (American Society of Animal Science, 2014-11-24)
      Genetic evaluations provide information to aid in breeding decisions that increase long-term performance of animals and herds. However, to date no study has been undertaken to investigate the accuracy of the Irish maternal genetic evaluations in beef cattle. The objective, therefore, of this study was to quantify the relationship between phenotypic performance and measures of genetic merit for predominantly maternal-related traits in Irish beef cattle. The association between animal EBV for calving interval, age at first calving, and both direct and maternal weaning weight with the respective phenotypic performance was quantified using a fixed effects model; the expectation for the regression coefficient of phenotypic performance on EBV was one. The association between genetic merit for cow survival, perinatal mortality, calving assistance, and calving dystocia with the log of the odds of the respective trait was quantified using logistic regression. The association analyses were conducted using field data on up to 38,619 records from 5,236 herds. Age at first calving increased linearly by 0.32 ± 0.15 (P = 0.03) days per day increase in EBV for age at first calving. Calving interval increased by, on average, 0.58 ± 0.16 (P = 0.002) days per day increase in EBV for calving interval although the association differed by parity with a greater association in pluriparae. Weaning weight increased linearly by 1.74 ± 0.09 and 0.84 ± 0.16 kg (P < 0.001) per kilogram increase in EBV for direct and maternal weaning weight, respectively. The log of the odds of a cow surviving to next lactation increased linearly by 0.16 ± 0.03 (P < 0.001) per unit increase in EBV for cow survival. The log of the odds of an assisted calving or dystocia both increased linearly by 0.21 ± 0.01 and 0.24 ± 0.01, respectively, per unit increase in EBV for direct calving difficulty (P < 0.001). The log of the odds of a dead calf at birth increased linearly by 0.93 ± 0.13 (P < 0.001) per unit increase in EBV for calf mortality. Results from this study show that selection of breeding animals for favorable maternal genetic attributes will result in favorable improvements in performance and profitability.