Open Access Open Badges Research article

Estimates of marker effects for measures of milk flow in the Italian brown Swiss dairy cattle population

Kent A Gray1, Christian Maltecca1*, Alessandro Bagnato2, Marlies Dolezal23, Attilio Rossoni4, Antonia B Samore2 and Joseph P Cassady1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genetics, Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

2 Department of Health, Animal Science and Food Safety, Universitá degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy

3 Institut für Populationsgenetik, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

4 Italian Brown Breeders Association, Bussolengo, Italy

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BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:199  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-199

Published: 23 October 2012



Milkability is a complex trait that is characterized by milk flow traits including average milk flow rate, maximum milk flow rate and total milking time. Milkability has long been recognized as an economically important trait that can be improved through selection. By improving milkability, management costs of milking decrease through reduced labor and improved efficiency of the automatic milking system, which has been identified as an important factor affecting net profit. The objective of this study was to identify markers associated with electronically measured milk flow traits, in the Italian Brown Swiss population that could potentially improve selection based on genomic predictions.


Sires (n = 1351) of cows with milk flow information were genotyped for 33,074 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers distributed across 29 Bos taurus autosomes (BTA). Among the six milk flow traits collected, ascending time, time of plateau, descending time, total milking time, maximum milk flow and average milk flow, there were 6,929 (time of plateau) to 14,585 (maximum milk flow) significant SNP markers identified for each trait across all BTA. Unique regions were found for each of the 6 traits providing evidence that each individual milk flow trait offers distinct genetic information about milk flow. This study was also successful in identifying functional processes and genes associated with SNPs that influences milk flow.


In addition to verifying the presence of previously identified milking speed quantitative trait loci (QTL) within the Italian Brown Swiss population, this study revealed a number of genomic regions associated with milk flow traits that have never been reported as milking speed QTL. While several of these regions were not associated with a known gene or QTL, a number of regions were associated with QTL that have been formerly reported as regions associated with somatic cell count, somatic cell score and udder morphometrics. This provides further evidence of the complexity of milk flow traits and the underlying relationship it has with other economically important traits for dairy cattle. Improved understanding of the overall milking pattern will aid in identification of cows with lower management costs and improved udder health.

Milk flow; GWAS; Milkability