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Research article2009Peer reviewedOpen access

Random regression models for genetic evaluation of clinical mastitis in dairy cattle

Carlen, E.; Grandinson, K.; Emanuelson, U.; Strandberg, E.


A genetic analysis of longitudinal binary clinical mastitis (CM) data recorded on about 90000 first-lactation Swedish Holstein cows was carried out using linear random regression models (RRM). This method for genetic evaluation of CM has theoretical advantages compared to the method of linear cross-sectional models (CSM), which is currently being used The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility and suitability of estimating genetic parameters and predicting breeding values for CM with a linear sire RRM. For validation purposes, the estimates and predictions from the RRM were compared to those from linear sire longitudinal multivariate models (LMVM) and CSM. For each cow, the period from 10 days before to 241 days after calving was divided into four 1-week intervals followed by eight 4-week intervals. Within each interval, presence or absence of CM was scored as '1' or '0' The linear RRM used to explain the trajectory of CM over time included a set of explanatory variables plus a third-order Legendre polynomial function of time for the sire effect The time-dependent heritabilities and genetic correlations from the chosen RRM corresponded fairly well with estimates obtained from the linear LMVM for the separate intervals. Some discrepancy between the two methods was observed, with the more unstable results being obtained from the linear LMVM. Both methods indicated clearly that CM was not genetically the same trait throughout lactation. The correlations between predicted sire breeding values from the RRM, summarized over different time periods, and from linear CSM were rather high. They were, however, less than unity (0.74 to 0.96), which indicated some re-ranking of sires. Sire curves based on the time-specific breeding values from the RRM illustrated differences in intercept and slope among the best and the worst sires. To conclude, a linear sire RRM seemed to work well for genetic evaluation purposes, but was sensitive for estimation of genetic parameters.


dairy cattle; genetic evaluation; clinical mastitis; random regression model

Published in

2009, Volume: 3, number: 8, pages: 1100-1108
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)