Genetic parameters between somatic cell score and production traits for Holstein cattle in Southern Brazil
Background: Somatic cell score is an important parameter to predict milk quality and health of cows. However, in countries like Brazil, this trait is still not selected on a large scale, and no genetic parameters are reported in the literature. Objective: To estimate the variance components and genetic parameters for somatic cell score, milk yield, fat yield, protein yield, fat percentage, and protein percentage in Holstein cows. Methods: Records from 56,718 animals were used to estimate variance components, heritability, and genetic correlations using a multi-trait animal model by the REML method. Results: The heritability estimates were 0.19 for somatic cell score, 0.22 for milk yield, 0.26 for fat yield, 0.18 for protein yield, 0.61 for fat percentage, and 0.65 for protein percentage. The estimates of genetic correlations among analyzed traits ranged from -0.50 to 0.82. Conclusion: The low heritability observed for somatic cell score indicates that selection for this trait should result in benefits related to animal health and milk quality, but only in the long term. The low correlation between productive traits and somatic cell score indicates that inclusion of somatic cell score in animal breeding programs does not interfere negatively with the genetic selection for milk yield or solids.
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