Genetic parameters for common health disorders of Holstein cows

J Dairy Sci. 1995 Feb;78(2):421-30. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(95)76651-6.


Observations on 7416 Canadian Holstein cows were examined to estimate genetic parameters for the most common diseases of dairy cows. Mastitis, ovarian cyst, ketosis, milk fever, abomasal displacement, and culling that is due to reproductive failure or leg problems were analyzed as binomial traits, assuming an underlying threshold model that included fixed and random effects. Sire and residual components of variance were estimated by REML to provide heritability estimates from paternal half-sibs. A multiple-trait mixed model was also used to estimate genetic and environmental correlations between production and disease traits. Heritabilities of disease traits were relatively low and ranged from 0 to .15, except for displaced abomasum (h2 = .28). Evidence of genetic antagonism existed between incidence of mastitis and milk production. Incidence of milk fever was genetically associated with cows of lower genetic potential for production. Genetic associations between displaced abomasum and production traits were small, and estimates of genetic correlations between ovarian cyst and milk production were inconsistent across lactations. Ketosis was antagonistically associated genetically with production of milk and fat but was favorably associated with production of protein. The long-term cumulative effect of genetic selection against diseases might be useful to diminish their incidence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abomasum / abnormalities
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / genetics*
  • Data Collection
  • Extremities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Ketosis / genetics
  • Ketosis / veterinary
  • Lactation / genetics
  • Male
  • Mastitis, Bovine / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Ovarian Cysts / genetics
  • Ovarian Cysts / veterinary
  • Parturient Paresis / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Statistics as Topic