Milk urea nitrogen concentration: Heritability and genetic correlations with reproductive performance and disease

R. G. Mitchell, G. W. Rogers, C. D. Dechow, J. E. Vallimont, J. B. Cooper, U. Sander-Nielsen, J. S. Clay

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The objectives of this study were to estimate the heritability of milk urea nitrogen (MUN) concentration and describe the genetic relationship between MUN and reproductive performance and between MUN and diseases in Holsteins. Dairy Records Management Systems (Raleigh, NC) provided lactation data. The Danish Agricultural Advisory Center provided breeding value estimates for diseases. Infrared (IR) and wet chemistry (WC) data were analyzed separately. Heritabilities and genetic correlations for 2 different measures of MUN and reproductive performance were estimated with an animal model using ASREML. Heritabilities for MUN were estimated using all lactations combined (lactations 1 through 5) and separately for first lactation and second lactation. Genetic correlations with reproduction and health were estimated separately for parities 1 and 2. Herd-test-day or herd-year-season along with age at calving and days in milk were included as fixed effects in all models. Heritability estimates for all lactations combined were 0.15 for WC MUN and 0.22 for IR MUN. Genetic correlations between WC MUN and 2 measures of reproductive performance, days to first service, and first service conception were not different from zero. In contrast, the genetic correlation between WC MUN and days open of 0.21 in first lactation and 0.41 in second lactation indicated that higher WC MUN values were associated with increased days open. Correlations among estimated breeding values for MUN and estimated breeding values for Danish diseases identified no significant relationships. Although the results of this study indicate that heritable variation for MUN exists, the inability to identify significant genetic relationships with several measures of disease or reproductive performance appears to limit the value of MUN in selection for disease resistance and improved reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4434-4440
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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