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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Feasibility of using automatic milking system data from commercial herds for genetic analysis of milkability

Carlström, Caroline; Pettersson, Gunnar; Johansson, K.; Strandberg, Erling; Stålhammar, Hans; Philipsson, Jan


The objective of this study was to investigate how useful data from automatic milking systems used in commercial herds are for genetic analysis of milkability traits. Data were available from 4,968 Swedish Holstein and Swedish Red cows over a span of 5 yr (2004-2009) from 19 herds. The analyzed milkability traits were average flow rate, box time, milking interval, and number of milkings per day. Variance components were estimated for genetic, permanent environmental, and residual effects in first and later (second and third) lactations, and were used for estimation of heritabilities and repeatablilites. The experiences of the data quality and editing procedures showed that almost half of the data and about a quarter of the cows had to be excluded from the analyses due to incomplete or inconsistent information. However, much more data are available than is needed for accurate genetic parameter estimations. For the genetic analysis, a repeatability animal model was used that included the fixed effects of herd, year and season, lactation month, and milk yield. The repeatability coefficients were at a high level: highest for average flow rate, with estimates between 0.8 and 0.9. The estimated heritability coefficients were in the range of 0.37 to 0.48, 0.21 to 0.44, 0.09 to 0.26, and 0.02 to 0.07 for average flow rate, box time, milking interval, and number of milkings, respectively. The results from the present study unraveled large genetic variation in milkability traits. The genetic parameter estimates were well in agreement with previous studies of milkability, which proves the feasibility of using data from automatic milking systems for genetic analysis.

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2013, Volume: 96, number: 8, pages: 5324-5332