Use of repeated measures analysis for evaluation of genetic background of dairy cattle behavior in automatic milking systems
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Milking frequencies measured at official test days were used with repeated measurement analysis to reveal the environmental and genetic impact on the milking frequency of cows in automatic milking systems. Repeated measurements were 3 test-day observations per cow within days in milk (DIM) classes, with 1,216 cows in DIM class 1 (d 0 to 99), from 1,112 cows in DIM class 2 (d 100 to 199), and from 1,004 cows in DIM class 3 (d 200 to 299) kept in 15 farms. Selection criteria for models analyzing repeated measurements were Akaike and Schwarz Bayesian values, which favored the autoregressive [AR(1)] covariance structure over the compound symmetry model. Results from the AR(1) model indicated a significant impact of fixed herd and parity effects. Milking frequencies decreased with increasing parities and were greatest for first-parity cows. High daily milk yield was associated with higher milking frequencies. Heritabilities for milking frequency were 0.16, 0.19, and 0.22 in DIM classes 1, 2, and 3, respectively, from the AR(1) model. Higher heritabilities in the later stage of lactation were due to a substantial reduction of the residual variance. Genetic correlations between test-day milk yield and daily milking frequency were in the range of 0.46 to 0.57 for all DIM classes and between milking frequency and somatic cell score were near zero. For verification of results, milking frequencies of the same cows obtained from herd management programs were averaged within DIM classes. Heritabilities were slightly above the values from the AR(1) model. In conclusion, heritabilities for milking frequency in automatic milking systems are moderate enough to incorporate this behavioral trait in a combined breeding goal. The inevitable improvement of labor efficiency in dairy cattle farming demands such cows going easily and voluntarily in automatic milking systems.