Invited review: Genetics and modeling of milk coagulation properties

J Dairy Sci. 2012 Dec;95(12):6843-70. doi: 10.3168/jds.2012-5507. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Milk coagulation properties (MCP) are conventionally measured using computerized renneting meters, mechanical or optical devices that record curd firmness over time (CF(t)). The traditional MCP are rennet coagulation time (RCT, min), curd firmness (a(30), mm), and curd-firming time (k(20), min). The milk of different ruminant species varies in terms of CF(t) pattern. Milk from Holstein-Friesian and some Scandinavian cattle breeds yields higher proportions of noncoagulating samples, samples with longer RCT and lower a(30), and samples for which k(20) is not estimable, than does milk from Brown Swiss, Simmental, and other local Alpine breeds. The amount, proportion, and genetic variants (especially κ-casein) of milk protein fractions strongly influence MCP and explain variable proportions of the observed differences among breeds and among individuals of the same breed. In addition, other major genes have been shown to affect MCP. Individual repeatability of MCP is high, whereas any herd effect is low; thus, the improvement of MCP should be based principally on selection. Exploitable additive genetic variation in MCP exists and has been assessed using different breeds in various countries. Several models have been formulated that either handle noncoagulating samples or not. The heritability of MCP is similar to that of other milk quality traits and is higher than the heritability of milk yield. Rennet coagulation time and a(30) are highly correlated, both phenotypically and genetically. This means that the use of a(30) data does not add valuable information to that obtainable from RCT; both traits are genetically correlated mainly with milk acidity. Moreover, a(30) is correlated with casein content. The major limitations of traditional MCP can be overcome by prolonging the observation period and by using a novel CF(t) modeling, which uses all available information provided by computerized renneting meters and allows the estimation of RCT, the potential asymptotic curd firmness, the curd-firming rate, and the syneresis rate. Direct measurements of RCT obtained from both mechanical and optical devices show similar heritabilities and exhibit high phenotypic and genetic correlations. Moreover, mid-infrared reflectance spectroscopy can predict MCP. The heritabilities of predicted MCP are higher than those of measured MCP, and the 2 sets of values are strongly correlated. Therefore, mid-infrared reflectance spectroscopy is a reliable and cheap method whereby MCP can be improved at the population level; this is because such spectra are already routinely acquired from the milk of cows enrolled in milk recording schemes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Chymosin / chemistry
  • Genes / genetics
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk Proteins / chemistry
  • Milk Proteins / genetics


  • Milk Proteins
  • rennet
  • Chymosin