Genetic relationships between calving interval and body condition score conditional on milk yield

J.E. Pryce, M.P. Coffey, S.H. Brotherstone, John Woolliams

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Body condition score (BCS) is a useful tool in assessing the energy status of dairy cattle. Previous research has shown that it is heritable and genetically correlated to reproductive performance. Currently, interest exists in developing selection indexes for fertility that include BCS information. Before such indexes are developed, it is important to assess the genetic covariance between BCS and fertility after fully accounting for the covariance of both traits with milk yield, as indices to predict selection responses require knowledge of these (co)variances. In the present study, calving interval (CI) was used as a measure of reproductive performance. The genetic correlations between BCS and CI before and after genetically adjusting for milk yield were -0.48 and -0.22, respectively. Thus, cows with low BCS have longer CI, which is exacerbated by high levels of milk production. Using selection index theory, we showed that. selecting for milk yield alone will result in an increase of 768 kg of milk, an increase of 4.46 d in CI and a reduction of 0.41 BCS units for every standard deviation change in the index. Restricting BC S to no genetic change, whereas still selecting for milk yield will result in an increase of 653.1 kg of milk per standard deviation of the selection index. However, CI will still continue to increase at a rate of 3.20 d per standard deviation of the selection index. The selection indices used here are not optimum, in that they are not economically driven and do not consider all traits that contribute to profitability. However, they demonstrate that, even though restricting BCS may be seen as an attractive way of limiting reliance of body tissue mobilization to fuel milk production, this is unlikely to result in improvements in CI, although the rate of increase in CI will be reduced.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1590-1595
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Composition
  • Body Constitution
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Lactation
  • Milk
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Selection, Genetic

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