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J. Dairy Sci. 89:3213-3220
© American Dairy Science Association, 2006.

Productive Life Including All Lactations and Longer Lactations with Diminishing Credits

P. M. VanRaden*,1, C. M. B. Dematawewa{dagger}, R. E. Pearson{dagger} and M. E. Tooker*

* Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL), Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350
{dagger} Department of Dairy Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24060

1 Corresponding author: paul{at}aipl.arsusda.gov

Alternative measures of productive life (PL) were compared, and life expectancy factors were updated to replace estimates from 1993. Alternatives were proposed with extra credits for lactations longer than 10 mo and beyond 84 mo of age and for each calving so that an extremely long lactation would not receive more credits than multiple shorter lactations with dry periods between. Maximum credits per lactation of 10 mo (original PL), 12 mo, and unlimited were compared. The unlimited credits option either included or excluded a calf value equal to 2 mo of production and had credits given for all days either uniformly or based on lactation curves (diminishing credits). Standard lactation curves (first, second, and greater lactations) were estimated based on the test-day yields of Holstein cows remaining in lactation from a set of 903,579 lactation records. For the diminishing credits alternative, credit for a given day of a parity was derived using the predicted yield of the day proportional to the average daily yield of the first 305 d of second parity. Daily yields were deviations from a baseline of 13.62 kg. Heritabilities and genetic correlations were estimated by multitrait REML for alternative measures of PL, for longevity censored at various ages, and for yield traits and SCS in first parity. Data for REML analysis included records from 1,098,329 Holsteins born from 1994 through 1997 from 5,109 sires, and a relationship matrix among sires was included in the model. Lactations beyond 84 mo added little information. Heritability of PL was 0.073 with 10 mo, 0.069 with 12 mo, 0.068 and 0.067 with unlimited (uniform) lactation credits (with and without calf credits, respectively), and 0.070 with unlimited diminishing credits. Corresponding correlations among predicted transmitting abilities for PL and protein yield were 0.07, 0.06, 0.12, 0.23, and 0.09, all much lower than the 0.46 estimated in 1993. Heritability of PL with diminishing credits improved from 0.017 to 0.070 when censoring age increased from 36 to 96 mo. There was no further increase in heritability beyond 96 mo. Genetic correlation with the final PL was 0.87 when PL was censored at 36 mo, but the estimate increased steadily with the censoring age. The PL with diminishing credits, which was favorable in both economic and genetic aspects, was desirable in crediting cows for complete lactations.

Key Words: longevity · productive life · lactation length

Copyright © 2006 by the American Dairy Science Association.