Reaction norms and genotype-by-environment interaction in the German Holstein dairy cattle

J Anim Breed Genet. 2012 Oct;129(5):380-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0388.2012.00999.x. Epub 2012 Apr 28.


Reaction norm random regression sire models were used to study genotype-by-environment interactions (G × E) in the German Holstein dairy cattle population. Around 2300 sires with a minimum of 50 daughters per sire and seven first-lactation test day observations per daughter were analysed. Corrected test day records for milk yield, protein yield, fat yield and somatic cell score (SCS) were used. Herd test day solutions for milk traits, milk energy yield or SCS were used as environmental descriptors. Second-order orthogonal polynomial regressions were applied to the sire effects. The results revealed significant slope variances of the reaction norms, which caused a non-constant additive genetic variance across the environmental ranges considered. This pointed to the presence of minor G × E effects. The additive genetic variance increased when the environment improved, that is, higher (lower) herd test day solutions for milk traits (SCS). This was also influenced by pure scaling effects, because the non-genetic variance increased in an improved environment and the heritability was less influenced by the environment. The G × E effects caused very little reranking of the sires for the environmental range considered in this study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Dairying
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genotype*
  • Germany
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Regression Analysis