Genetic aspects of growth of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows from birth to maturity

M.P. Coffey, J. Hickey, S. Brotherstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In general, genetic selection is applied after first calving to traits that manifest themselves during the animal's productive life, mostly during the early part of productive life. This selection policy has had undesirable correlated responses in other economically important traits, such as health and fertility, and may also have had an effect on the growth of animals both during productive life and before first calving. In this study, we analyzed the growth trajectory of dairy heifers that had been selected for maximum production of combined fat and protein (measured in kg; select line) or for average production (control line) in the United Kingdom. Before first calving, these divergent lines were managed as a single group. Select line heifers grew faster than did control line heifers. They were also heavier at first calving, but by the end of 3 lactations, the lines were not significantly different in live weight. Selection primarily for yield and for other traits has led to heifers that grow faster and reach higher growth rates earlier in life. A genetic analysis of birth, weaning, and calving weights yielded heritability estimates of 0.53 (birth weight), 0.45 (weaning weight), and 0.75 (calving weight). Confidence intervals for the genetic correlations between the traits indicated that these BW traits are not under the same genetic control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-329
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Birth Weight
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Lactation/genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Weaning


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