Estimation of genetic parameters for measures of calf survival in a population of Holstein heifer calves from a heifer-raising facility in New York State
Henderson, L., Miglior, F., Sewalem, A., Kelton, D., Robinson, A., Leslie, K.E. (2011). Estimation of genetic parameters for measures of calf survival in a population of Holstein heifer calves from a heifer-raising facility in New York State. Journal of Dairy Science (JDS), [online] 94(1), 461-470. http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2010-3243
The objectives of this study were to estimate the genetic parameters of survival to weaning and survival to exit for a population of Holstein calves from New York State, as well as to associate the estimated breeding values determined in the current study with traits from ongoing genetic evaluations used in Canada and the United States. Data were recorded for 7,372 heifer calves at a commercial rearing facility in New York State from arrival at 1 to 7 d of age for the duration of stay at the facility (on average, heifers departed the facility 1 mo before calving). Performance and disease up to weaning and mortality before and after weaning were recorded. Analyzed data were limited to daughters of sires with at least 10 calves originating from farms that had sent a minimum of 5 calves to be raised at the facility. As such, calves from 264 sires and 36 herds were studied using 2 statistical methods. The first method, calf survival, used a Weibull proportional hazards model, with survival defined as age at culling, death, or censoring. The second method, a 2-trait sire model, included survival from arrival to weaning (SUV1) and survival from weaning to exit (SUV2). Both models included fixed effects of arrival weight, serum total protein, weaning weight, season and year of birth, and calving ease score. Herd and sire were included as random effects. Significant associations among all fixed effects and calf survival were observed. In general, very light or heavy weight at arrival, low total protein, low weaning weight, and difficult birth increased risk of mortality for calves. The heritability of survival from the first method was 0.063. The heritabilities from the linear model were 0.001 for SUV1 and 0.036 for SUV2. The genetic correlation between SUV1 and SUV2 was 0.58. Genetic variance was close to zero for survival of calves to weaning, but was greater for survival after weaning through the growing period. Breeding values were estimated for SUV1 and SUV2 and correlated with routinely evaluated traits from Canadian and US genetic evaluations. Significant associations between genetic evaluations for survival traits and routinely evaluated traits in Canada and the United States were found, in particular with conformation body traits, somatic cell score, fertility, and longevity. © 2011 American Dairy Science Association.