Open Access Open Badges Research article

Genetic effects and correlations between production and fertility traits and their dependency on the lactation-stage in Holstein Friesians

Eva M Strucken1, Ralf H Bortfeldt1, Jens Tetens2, Georg Thaller2 and Gudrun A Brockmann1*

Author Affiliations

1 Breeding Biology and Molecular Genetics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Invalidenstraße 42, Berlin, 10115, Germany

2 Animal Breeding and Husbandry, Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Olshausenstr. 40, Kiel, 24098, Germany

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BMC Genetics 2012, 13:108  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-13-108

Published: 17 December 2012



This study focused on the dynamics of genome-wide effects on five milk production and eight fertility traits as well as genetic correlations between the traits. For 2,405 Holstein Friesian bulls, estimated breeding values (EBVs) were used. The production traits were additionally assessed in 10-day intervals over the first 60 lactation days, as this stage is physiologically the most crucial time in milk production.


SNPs significantly affecting the EBVs of the production traits could be separated into three groups according to the development of the size of allele effects over time: 1) increasing effects for all traits; 2) decreasing effects for all traits; and 3) increasing effects for all traits except fat yield. Most of the significant markers were found within 22 haplotypes spanning on average 135,338 bp. The DGAT1 region showed high density of significant markers, and thus, haplotype blocks. Further functional candidate genes are proposed for haplotype blocks of significant SNPs (KLHL8, SICLEC12, AGPAT6 and NID1). Negative genetic correlations were found between yield and fertility traits, whilst content traits showed positive correlations with some fertility traits. Genetic correlations became stronger with progressing lactation. When correlations were estimated within genotype classes, correlations were on average 0.1 units weaker between production and fertility traits when the yield increasing allele was present in the genotype.


This study provides insight into the expression of genetic effects during early lactation and suggests possible biological explanations for the presented time-dependent effects. Even though only three markers were found with effects on fertility, the direction of genetic correlations within genotype classes between production and fertility traits suggests that alleles increasing the milk production do not affect fertility in a more negative way compared to the decreasing allele.

Time-dependency; Dynamic traits; Genome-wide association; Lactation; Dairy cattle; Fertility; Reproduction; Negative energy balance; KLHL8; NID1