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Identifying and characterising robust dairy cows - LK0657

Description
A robust cow can be defined as one that adapts well to a wide range of environmental conditions or in genetic terms expresses a reduced genotype x environment (G x E) interaction when tested across different environments1. Robustness has considerable significance for the aims of dairy cow breeding in the current economic climate. There is an expectation that current dairy management systems will polarise into high and low output units, as different producers seek profitability either through increased efficiencies or through supplying niche markets.

The purpose of this proposal is to address the knowledge gap that exists over robustness in the dairy cow by: (a) developing statistical and data collection procedures for the identification of bulls with robust daughters; (b) exploring the biological characteristics of the daughters of sires that vary in robustness to identify ‘general adaptability’ traits that contribute to robustness. For reasons related to the public good we are interested in whether robustness can be seen as reflecting only the physical characteristics of the animal or whether differences in behaviour (e.g. ‘fear’ or ‘docility’), may be implicated in robustness.

This information will be relevant to: (a) the development of methods (e.g. new statistical approaches or new traits such as behaviours contributing to robustness) to be used by breeding companies when selecting for robustness; (b) dairy farmers’ choice of bulls in relation to their adaptive capacity; (c) policy makers (both governmental and NGO) when deliberating the biological and ethical implications of selection aimed at increased robustness.
Objective
The purpose of this proposal is to address the knowledge gap that exists over robustness in the dairy cow by: (a) developing statistical and data collection procedures for the identification of bulls with robust daughters; (b) exploring the biological characteristics of the daughters of sires that vary in robustness to identify ‘general adaptability’ traits that contribute to robustness. For reasons related to the public good we are interested in whether robustness can be seen as reflecting only the physical characteristics of the animal or whether differences in behaviour (e.g. ‘fear’ or ‘docility’), may be implicated in robustness.
Project Documents
• Executive Summary : Identifying and characterising robust dairy cows   (3817k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2007

Cost: £622,750
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Avoncroft Sires Ltd, National Milk Records PLC, Cattle Information Service, University - Scottish Agricultural College, Cogent, BOCM Pauls Ltd, Genus Breeding Ltd, Dartington Cattle Breeding Trust, Holstein UK, RSPCA
Keywords
Animal Health              
Animal Production              
Breeding              
Climate Change              
Dairy              
Farming              
Genetics              
Livestock              
Livestock Farming              
Marker              
Mastitis              
Meat Quality              
Meat Traceability              
On-Farm              
Plants and Animals              
Reproduction              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Technology