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Genetic selection for dairy calf disease resistance traits: opportunities and challenges

By: C. Lynch, F. S. Schenkel, N. van Staaveren, F. Miglior, D. Kelton, C. F. Baes

Genetic selection is a viable option to help improve calf health. Producer recorded calf disease data comprised of 69,695 Holstein calf disease records for respiratory problems (RESP) and diarrhea (DIAR). Across analyses, heritability estimates for RESP and DIAR ranged from 0.02 to 0.07, indicating the potential for selection. Furthermore, sires were compared based on their estimated breeding value and their daughter diseased incidence rates. On average, calves born to the bottom 10% of sires were 1.5 times more likely to develop DIAR, and 1.4 times to develop RESP compared to daughters born to the top 10% of sires. However, for genetic evaluation to be feasible long term in Canada, infrastructure surrounding data collection needs to be improved.