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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Emphasis on resilience in dairy cattle breeding: Possibilities and consequences

Bengtsson, C.; Thomasen, J. R.; Kargo, M.; Bouquet, A.; Slagboom, M.


This study aimed to investigate dairy cattle breeding goals with more emphasis on resilience. We simulated the consequences of increasing weight on resilience indicators and an assumed true resilience trait (TR). Two environments with different breeding goals were simulated to represent the variability of production systems across Europe. Ten different scenarios were stochastically simulated in a so-called pseudogenomic simulation approach. We showed that many modern dairy cattle breeding goals most likely have negative genetic gain for TR and promising resilience indicators such as the log-transformed, daily deviation from the lactation curve (LnVAR). In addition, there were many ways of improving TR by increasing the breeding goal weight of different resilience indicators. The results showed that adding breeding goal weight to resilience indicators, such as body condition score and LnVAR, could reverse the negative trend observed for resilience indicators. Loss in the aggregate genotype calculated with only current breeding goal traits was 12 to 76%. This loss was mainly due to a reduction in genetic gain in milk production. We observed higher genetic gain in beef production, fertility, and udder health when breeding for more resilience, but from an economical point of view, this was not high enough to compensate for the reduction in genetic gain in milk production. The highest genetic gain in TR was obtained when adding the highest breeding goal weight to LnVAR or TR, both with 0.29 genetic standard deviation units. The indicators we used, body condition score and LnVAR, can be measured on a large scale today with relatively cheap methods, which is crucial if we want to improve these traits through breeding. Economic values for resilience have to be estimated to find the most optimal breeding goal for a more resilient dairy cow in the future.


dairy cattle resilience; breeding goal; breeding scheme

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2022, Volume: 105, number: 9, pages: 7588-7599

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

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