Prenatal maternal effects on body condition score, female fertility, and milk yield of dairy cows

G. Banos*, S. Brotherstone, M. P. Coffey

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this study, maternal effects were described as age of dam at first and second calving, first-lactation body condition score (BCS) of the dam during gestation, and milk yield of the dam. The impact of these effects on first-lactation daughter BCS, fertility, and test-day milk yield was assessed. The effect of milk yield of dam on daughter 305-d yield in the latter's first 3 lactations was also investigated. The proportion of total phenotypic variance in daughter traits accounted for by maternal effects was calculated. Dams calving early for the first time (18 to 23 mo of age) had daughters that produced 4.5% more first-lactation daily milk, had 7% higher BCS, and had their first service 3 d earlier than cows whose dams calved late (30 to 36 mo). However, daughters of dams that calved early had difficulties conceiving as they needed 7% more inseminations and had a 7.5% higher return rate. Cows from second calvings of relatively young (36 to 41 mo) dams produced 6% more first-lactation daily milk, had 2% higher BCS, and showed a significantly better fertility profile than cows whose dams calved at a late age (47 to 55 mo) High maternal BCS during gestation had a favorable effect on daughter BCS, nonreturn rate, and number of inseminations per conception. However, it was also associated with a small decrease in daughter daily milk yield. Changes in dam BCS during gestation did not affect daughter performance significantly. Maternal effects of milk yield of the dam, expressed as her permanent environment during lactation, adversely affected daughter 305-d milk, fat, and protein yield. However, although the effect was significant, it was practically negligible (<0.3% of the mean). Finally, overall maternal effects accounted for a significant proportion of the total phenotypic variance of calving interval (1.4 +/- 0.6%) and nonreturn rate (1.1 +/- 0.5%).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3490-3499
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • MICE
  • fertility
  • maternal effects
  • milk
  • body condition score

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