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J. Dairy Sci. 90:1008-1020
American Dairy Science Association, 2007.

Selection on Yield and Fitness Traits When Culling Holsteins During the First Three Lactations

H. D. Norman*,1, J. L. Hutchison*, J. R. Wright*, M. T. Kuhn* and T. J. Lawlor{dagger}

* Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350
{dagger} Holstein Association USA, Inc., Brattleboro, VT 05301

1 Corresponding author: dnorman{at}aipl.arsusda.gov

Emphasis by dairy producers on various yield and fitness traits when culling cows was documented for US Holstein calvings since 1982. Least squares differences between cows retained for additional parities and those culled were estimated for milk, fat, and protein yields; somatic cell score (SCS); days open (DO); dystocia score (DS), final score (FS), and 14 type traits. Compared with cows culled during first lactation, superiority for first-parity milk yield was 569 to 1,175 kg for cows with 2 lactations, 642 to 1,283 kg for cows with ≥2 lactations, 710 to 1,350 kg for cows with 3 lactations, and 663 to 1,331 kg for cows with ≥4 lactations. Cows retained for ≥2 lactations had first-parity SCS that were 0.34 to 0.62 lower (more favorable) than those of cows culled during first lactation; first-parity SCS for cows retained for 3 or ≥4 lactations were even more favorable than those of cows with 1 or 2 lactations. The negative genetic relationship between yield and fertility contributed to increased DO as selection for higher milk yield persisted across time despite considerable preference for early conception when culling cows. In 1982, cows retained in the herd for 2, 3, and ≥4 lactations conceived earlier during first lactation (19, 17, and 23 fewer DO, respectively) than those culled during first lactation; those differences had increased to 34, 41, and 52 fewer DO by 2000. Although DS has a negative relationship with survival, first-parity DS were only slightly lower (by 0.10 to 0.14) for survivors than for cows culled during first lactation. Cows retained for ≥2 lactations had greater first-parity FS by 1.4 to 1.9 points than those culled during first lactation. On a standardized basis, the most intense selection during first lactation was for milk and protein yields with less for fat (74 to 86% of that for milk), DO (18 to 74%), FS (22 to 38%), SCS (19 to 37%), and DS (7 to 15%). Producers continued to emphasize the same traits when culling during second and third lactations. Trait priority by producers during culling could aid in setting trait emphasis when selecting bulls for progeny test and could also be useful in developing software for index-based culling guides.

Key Words: culling fitness trait yield trait selection







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