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Open AccessArticle

Genetic Analysis of Milk Production Traits and Mid-Infrared Spectra in Chinese Holstein Population

1
Key Lab of Agricultural Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction of Ministry of Education, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China
2
Henan Dairy Herd Improvement Center, Zhengzhou 450000, China
3
Department of Veterinary Hygiene and Management, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Benha University, Moshtohor 13736, Egypt
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010139
Received: 1 November 2019 / Revised: 28 December 2019 / Accepted: 4 January 2020 / Published: 15 January 2020
Usually, spectral data are used as predictors to predict milk components, animal characteristics, and even reproductive status. Another innovative way to use spectral data involves considering spectral wavenumbers as traits and then analyzing from the genetic perspective. In this study, we considered milk spectral data directly as traits, then detected the influence of some non-genetic factors on spectral wavenumbers and estimated the genetic parameters of spectral points. The result of the present study could be used as a management tool for dairy farm and also provides a further understanding of genetic background of milk mid-infrared (MIR) spectra. In future, milk spectral data could be applied more effective. For example, some sub-clinical diseases might be detected based on the difference between the expected and observed values of the spectral traits. In addition, we could also use genetic correlation between wavenumbers and a trait of interest, which are difficult and expensive to measure, to apply for the genetic improvement of dairy species.
Milk composition always serves as an indicator for the cow’s health status and body condition. Some non-genetic factors such as parity, days in milk (DIM), and calving season, which obviously affect milk performance, therefore, need to be considered in dairy farm management. However, only a few milk compositions are used in the current animal selection programs. The mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy can reflect the global composition of milk, but this information is currently underused. The objectives of this study were to detect the effect of some non-genetic factors on milk production traits as well as 1060 individual spectral points covering from 925.92 cm−1 to 5011.54 cm−1, estimate heritabilities of milk production traits and MIR spectral wavenumbers, and explore the genetic correlations between milk production traits and 1060 individual spectral points in a Chinese Holstein population. The mixed models procedure of SAS software was used to test the non-genetic factors. Single-trait animal models were used to estimate heritabilities and bivariate animal models were used to estimate genetic correlations using the package of ASReml in R software. The results showed that herd, parity, calving season, and lactation stage had significant effects on the percentages of protein and lactose, whereas herd and lactation stage had significant effects on fat percentage. Moreover, the herd showed a significant effect on all of the 1060 individual wavenumbers, whereas lactation stage, parity, and calving season had significant effect on most of the wavenumbers of the lactose-region (925 cm−1 to 1200 cm−1), protein-region (1240 cm−1 to 1600 cm−1), and fat-regions (1680 cm−1 to 1770 cm−1 and 2800 cm−1 to 3015 cm−1). The estimated heritabilities for protein percentage (PP), fat percentage (FP), and lactose percentage (LP) were 0.08, 0.05, and 0.09, respectively. Further, the milk spectrum was heritable but low for most individual points. Heritabilities of 1060 individual spectral points were 0.04 on average, ranging from 0 to 0.11. In particular, heritabilities for wavenumbers of spectral regions related to water absorption were very low and even null, and heritabilities for wavenumbers of specific MIR regions associated with fat-I, fat-II, protein, and lactose were 0.04, 0.06, 0.05, and 0.06 on average, respectively. The genetic correlations between PP and FP, PP and LP, FP, and LP were 0.78, −0.29, and −0.14, respectively. In addition, PP, FP, and LP shared the similar patterns of genetic correlations with the spectral wavenumbers. The genetic correlations between milk production traits and spectral regions related to important milk components varied from weak to very strong (0.01 to 0.94, and −0.01 to −0.96). The current study could be used as a management tool for dairy farms and also provides a further understanding of the genetic background of milk MIR spectra. View Full-Text
Keywords: mid-infrared spectra; milk production traits; spectral wavenumbers; heritability; genetic correlation mid-infrared spectra; milk production traits; spectral wavenumbers; heritability; genetic correlation
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Du, C.; Nan, L.; Yan, L.; Bu, Q.; Ren, X.; Zhang, Z.; Sabek, A.; Zhang, S. Genetic Analysis of Milk Production Traits and Mid-Infrared Spectra in Chinese Holstein Population. Animals 2020, 10, 139.

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