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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Bivariate threshold models for genetic evaluation of susceptibility to and ability to recover from mastitis in Danish Holstein cows

Welderufael, B. G.; Janss, L. L. G.; de Koning, D. J.; Sorensen, L. P.; Lovendahl, P.; Fikse, W. F.


Mastitis in dairy cows is an unavoidable problem and genetic variation in recovery from mastitis, in addition to susceptibility, is therefore of interest. Genetic parameters for susceptibility to and recovery from mastitis were estimated for Danish Holstein-Friesian cows using data from automatic milking systems equipped with online somatic cell count measuring units. The somatic cell count measurements were converted to elevated mastitis risk, a continuous variable [on a (0-1) scale] indicating the risk of mastitis. Risk values >0.6 were assumed to indicate that a cow had mastitis. For each cow and lactation, the sequence of health states (mastitic or healthy) was converted to a weekly transition: 0 if the cow stayed within the same state and 1 if the cow changed state. The result was 2 series of transitions: one for healthy to diseased (HD, to model mastitis susceptibility) and the other for diseased to healthy (DH, to model recovery ability). The 2 series of transitions were analyzed with bivariate threshold models, including several systematic effects and a function of time. The model included effects of herd, parity, herd-test-week, permanent environment (to account for the repetitive nature of transition records from a cow) plus two time-varying effects (lactation stage and time within episode). In early lactation, there was an increased risk of getting mastitis but the risk remained stable afterwards. Mean recovery rate was 45% per lactation. Heritabilities were 0.07 [posterior mean of standard deviations (PSD) = 0.03] for HD and 0.08 (PSD = 0.03) for DH. The genetic correlation between HD and DH has a posterior mean of 0.83 (PSD = 0.13). Although susceptibility and recovery from mastitis are strongly negatively correlated, recovery can be considered as a new trait for selection.


bivariate model; dairy cow; recovery ability; susceptibility to mastitis

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2017, Volume: 100, number: 6, pages: 4706-4720