Short communication: Genetic correlation of bovine leukosis incidence with somatic cell score and milk yield in a US Holstein population



Abdalla EA, Weigel KA, Byrem TM, Rosa GJM.


J Dairy Sci. 2016 Mar;99(3):2005-2009. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-9833. Epub 2016 Jan 6.


Bovine leukosis (BL) is a retroviral disease caused by the bovine leukosis virus (BLV), which affects only cattle. Dairy cows positive for BL produce less milk and have more days open than cows negative for BL. In addition, the virus also affects the immune system and causes weaker response to vaccines. Heritability estimates of BL incidence have been reported for Jersey and Holstein populations at about 0.08, indicating an important genetic component that can potentially be exploited to reduce the prevalence of the disease. However, before BL is used in selection programs, it is important to study its genetic associations with other economically important traits such that correlated responses to selection can be predicted. Hence, this study aimed to estimate the genetic correlations of BL with milk yield (MY) and with somatic cell score (SCS). Data of a commercial assay (ELISA) used to detect BLV antibodies in milk samples were obtained from Antel BioSystems (Lansing, MI). The data included continuous milk ELISA scores and binary milk ELISA results for 11,554 cows from 112 dairy herds across 16 US states. Continuous and binary milk ELISA were analyzed with linear and threshold models, respectively, together with MY and SCS using multitrait animal models. Genetic correlations (posterior means ± standard deviations) between BL incidence and MY were 0.17 ± 0.077 and 0.14 ± 0.076 using ELISA scores and results, respectively; with SCS, such estimates were 0.20 ± 0.081 and 0.17 ± 0.079, respectively. In summary, the results indicate that selection for higher MY may lead to increased BLV prevalence in dairy herds, but that the inclusion of BL (or SCS as an indicator trait) in selection indexes may help attenuate this problem. CI – Copyright © 2016 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Link/DOI: 10.3168/jds.2015-9833