The objective of this study was to estimate variance components and genetic parameters for lactation milk yield (LY), lactation length (LL), average milk yield per day (YD), initial milk yield (IY), peak milk yield (PY), days to peak (DP) and parameters (ln(a) and c) of the modified incomplete gamma function (MIG) in an Ethiopian multibreed dairy cattle population. The dataset was composed of 5,507 lactation records collected from 1,639 cows in three locations (Bako, Debre Zeit and Holetta) in Ethiopia from 1977 to 2010. Parameters for MIG were obtained from regression analysis of monthly test-day milk data on days in milk. The cows were purebred (Bos indicus) Boran (B) and Horro (H) and their crosses with different fractions of Friesian (F), Jersey (J) and Simmental (S). There were 23 breed groups (B, H, and their crossbreds with F, J, and S) in the population. Fixed and mixed models were used to analyse the data. The fixed model considered herd-year-season, parity and breed group as fixed effects, and residual as random. The single and two-traits mixed animal repeatability models, considered the fixed effects of herd-year-season and parity subclasses, breed as a function of cow H, F, J, and S breed fractions and general heterosis as a function of heterozygosity, and the random additive animal, permanent environment, and residual effects. For the analysis of LY, LL was added as a fixed covariate to all models. Variance components and genetic parameters were estimated using average information restricted maximum likelihood procedures. The results indicated that all traits were affected (p<0.001) by the considered fixed effects. High grade B×F cows (3/16B 13/16F) had the highest least squares means (LSM) for LY (2,490±178.9 kg), IY (10.5±0.8 kg), PY (12.7±0.9 kg), YD (7.6±0.55 kg) and LL (361.4±31.2 d), while B cows had the lowest LSM values for these traits. The LSM of LY, IY, YD, and PY tended to increase from the first to the fifth parity. Single-trait analyses yielded low heritability (0.03±0.03 and 0.08±0.02) and repeatability (0.14±0.01 to 0.24±0.02) estimates for LL, DP and parameter c. Medium heritability (0.21±0.03 to 0.33±0.04) and repeatability (0.27±0.02 to 0.53±0.01) estimates were obtained for LY, IY, PY, YD and ln(a). Genetic correlations between LY, IY, PY, YD, ln(a), and LL ranged from 0.59 to 0.99. Spearman's rank correlations between sire estimated breeding values for LY, LL, IY, PY, YD, ln(a) and c were positive (0.67 to 0.99, p<0.001). These results suggested that selection for IY, PY, YD, or LY would genetically improve lactation milk yield in this Ethiopian dairy cattle population.
Keywords: Genetic Correlations; Genetic Parameters; Milk Yield; Multibreed; Tropics.