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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #331159

Title: Genetic evaluation for cow livability

item NORMAN, H - Council On Dairy Cattle Breeding
item Wright, Janice
item Vanraden, Paul

Submitted to: Internet Web Page
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/12/2016
Publication Date: 8/12/2016
Citation: Norman, H.D., Wright, J.R., Van Raden, P.M. 2016. Genetic evaluation for cow livability. Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding Internet Web Page. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: When genetic evaluations for Productive Life were introduced by USDA in 1994, U.S. dairy producers had an opportunity to produce healthier cows, and it happened. The genetic evaluations were incorporated into selection programs and the deterioration occurring in pregnancy rate and somatic cell score for decades was reversed. A new enhancement is available in August 2016 and producers now have a new tool to help even more. The new genetic evaluation is PTA for Cow Livability (PTA C.LIV) which predicts transmitting ability to remain alive while in the milking herd. In contrast, PTA for Productive Life (PL) predicts transmitting ability for how long a cow is expected to remain in the milking herd before dying or being culled. Thus, livability is a trait with high economic influence that to date had not been accounted for adequately. When a cow is removed from the herd by either voluntary or involuntary culling, this sales income is returned to the owner. In contrast, if a cow dies, or has to be euthanized, there is a total loss of income. Just knowing which cows are most likely to remain in the herd the longest is not the entire story; instead additional benefit comes through knowing which cows are most likely to produce income at time of disposal. Mortality rate averages 7% each lactation so death claims 20% of the U.S. cows while in the milking herd. The lost ‘disposal income’ from those dying is approximately $800 million per year. Accuracy of PTA for livability is quite high as termination codes have been recorded in DHIA for decades. Genomic predictions for AI bulls have high accuracy for the new trait. Eventually the new PTA will be incorporated into the lifetime merit indexes. When this happens, the weight given to Productive Life will decline from 19 to about 14%, and the emphasis assigned to Cow Livability will be near 7%, so the combined emphasis on both will increase to 21%. This new tool will improve dairy producers’ profitability.