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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

International genetic evaluation of Holstein bulls for overall type traits and body condition score

Battagin, Mara; Forabosco, Flavio; Halkjer Jakobsen, Jette; Penasa, M.; Lawlor, T.J.; Cassandro, M.


The study documents the procedures used to estimate genetic correlations among countries for overall conformation (OCS), overall udder (OUS), overall feet and legs (OFL), and body condition score (BCS) of Holstein sires. Major differences in traits definition are discussed, in addition to the use of international breeding values (IBV) among countries involved in international genetic evaluations, and similarities among countries through hierarchical clustering. Data were available for populations from 20 countries for OCS and OUS, 18 populations for OFL, and 11 populations for BCS. The IBV for overall traits and BCS were calculated using a multi-trait across-country evaluation model. Distance measures, obtained from genetic correlations, were used as input values in the cluster analysis. Results from surveys sent to countries participating in international genetic evaluation for conformation traits showed that different ways of defining traits are used: the overall traits were either computed from linear or composite traits or defined as general characteristics. For BCS, populations were divided into 2 groups: one scored and evaluated BCS, and one used a best predictor. In general, populations were well connected except for Estonia and French Red Holstein. The average number of common bulls for the overall traits ranged from 19 (OCS and OUS of French Red Holstein) to 514 (OFL of United States), and for BCS from 17 (French Red Holstein) to 413 (the Netherlands). The average genetic correlation (range) across countries was 0.75 (0.35 to 0.95), 0.80 (0.41 to 0.95), and 0.68 (0.12 to 0.89) for OCS, OUS, and OFL, respectively. Genetic correlations among countries that used angularity as best predictor for BCS and countries that scored BCS were negative. The cluster analysis provided a clear picture of the countries distances; differences were due to trait definition, trait composition, and weights in overall traits, genetic ties, and genotype by environment interactions. Harmonization of trait definition and increasing genetic ties could improve genetic correlations across countries and reduce the distances. In each national selection index, all countries, except Estonia and New Zealand, included at least one overall trait, whereas none included BCS. Out of 18 countries, 9 have started genomic evaluation of conformation traits. The first were Canada, France, New Zealand, and United States in 2009, followed by Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands in 2010, and Australia and Denmark-Finland-Sweden (joint evaluation) in 2011. Six countries are planning to start soon.

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2012, volume: 95, number: 8, pages: 4721-4731

Authors' information

Battagin, Mara
University of Padova
Forabosco, Flavio
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Halkjer Jakobsen, Jette
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Penasa, M.
University of Padova
Lawlor, T.J.
Hostein Association
Cassandro, M.
University of Padova

UKÄ Subject classification

Genetics and Breeding

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