Genetic parameters for stayability of Holsteins in US organic herds

L. C. Hardie, B. J. Heins, C. D. Dechow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were to estimate genetic parameters for stayability in US organic Holstein dairy cows and estimate genetic correlations with nationally evaluated traits of interest. Stayability is the binary trait for success or failure to remain in the herd until a given time point. We used birth, calving, and cull dates from 16 USDA certified organic farms recommended by industry personnel as herds maintaining individual cow records and using artificial insemination. Stayability at 5 time points was assigned based on the presence of a calving date for each parity up to 5 (STAY1 to STAY5). We also considered livebirth (vs. stillbirth), stayability from a successful first calving to second calving (STAY12), stayability from a successful second calving to third calving (STAY23), and stayability as a repeated measure encompassing STAY1 to STAY5. In total, 44,995 females were used in this study. Ninety-six percent were born alive and of these, 64% reached first parity. Animals with Holstein sires and no other identified breed for 3 generations on the maternal side were included. Heritabilities for stayability to each parity on the underlying scale were estimated using a threshold model with the fixed effect of herd and the random effects of animal and herd-year-season of birth. Genetic correlations were estimated among livebirth, STAY1, STAY12, and STAY23 with a 4-trait linear model with fixed herd-year-season of birth and random effects of animal, dam of the calf (livebirth), and herd calving date (STAY12 and STAY23). Heritabilities for stayability ranged from 0.07 to 0.15 and was 0.08 for the direct effect of livebirth and 0.06 for the maternal effect of livebirth. The repeatability for stayability was 0.60. Genetic correlations ranged from 0.11 between livebirth and STAY1 to 0.83 between STAY12 and STAY23. Excluding livebirth, stayability to all time points was significantly correlated with productive life and with cow livability. In general, stayability was positively associated with milk yield and negatively associated with fat percent and stillbirth. In conclusion, stayability in organic herds is heritable and positively associated with nationally evaluated longevity traits suggesting that improvement for stayability in organic herds can be achieved with current national evaluations for longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4507-4515
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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