Genetics of reproductive performance in seasonal calving beef cows and its association with performance traits
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CitationBerry, D. P., and R. D. Evans. 2014. Genetics of reproductive performance in seasonal calving beef cows and its association with performance traits. J. Anim. Sci. 92:1412-1422. doi:10.2527/jas.2013-6723
AbstractDue 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.