Genetic parameters of subclinical macromineral disorders and major clinical diseases in postparturient Holstein cows

J Dairy Sci. 2016 Nov;99(11):8901-8914. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-10789. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


The main objective of this study was to assess the genetic parameters of subclinical disorders associated with subclinical hypocalcemia, hypophosphatemia, subclinical hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia, and hyperphosphatemia, as well as major clinical diseases after calving in Holstein cows. The secondary objective was to estimate the associated genetic and phenotypic correlations among these subclinical and clinical conditions after calving in Holstein cows. The study was conducted in 9dairy herds located in Northern Greece. None of the herds used any kind of preventive measures for milk fever (MF). A total of 1,021 Holstein cows with pedigree information were examined from November 2010 until November 2012. The distribution across parities was 466 (parity 1), 242 (parity 2), 165 (parity 3), and 148 (parity 4 and above) cows. All cows were subjected to a detailed clinical examination and blood was sampled on d 1, 2, 4, and 8 after calving. Serum concentrations of Ca, P, Mg, and K were measured in all samples, whereas β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) was measured only for d 8. The final data set included 4,064 clinical and 16,848 biochemical records (4,020 Ca, 4,019 P, 4,020Mg, 3,792K, and 997 BHB). Data of 1,988 observations of body condition score at d 1 and 8 were also available. All health traits were analyzed with a univariate random regression model. The genetic analysis for macromineral-related disorders included 986 cows with no obvious signs of MF (35 cows with MF were excluded). Analysis for other health traits included all 1,021 cows. A similar single record model was used for the analysis of BHB. Genetic correlations among traits were estimated with a series of bivariate analyses. Statistically significant daily heritabilities of subclinical hypocalcemia (0.13-0.25), hypophosphatemia (0.18-0.33), subclinical hypomagnesemia (0.11-0.38), and hyperphosphatemia (0.14-0.22) were low to moderate, whereas that of hypokalemia was low (0.08-0.10). The heritability of body condition score was 0.20±0.10. Statistically significant daily heritabilities of clinical diseases were those of MF (0.07-0.11), left displaced abomasum (0.19-0.31), and mastitis (0.15-0.41). Results suggest that these health disorders are heritable traits and could be minimized with proper genetic selection. Statistically significant phenotypic correlations were estimated for the first time between macromineral concentrations and almost all transition cow metabolic and infectious health disorders.

Keywords: genetic parameters; postpartum diseases; subclinical macromineral disorders.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Hypocalcemia / veterinary
  • Lactation / genetics*
  • Minerals
  • Parity*
  • Parturient Paresis
  • Pregnancy


  • Minerals
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid