Genetic parameters of linear conformation type traits and their relationship with milk yield throughout lactation in mixed-breed dairy goats

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Conformation traits are of interest to many dairy goat breeders not only as descriptive traits in their own right, but also because of their influence on production, longevity, and profitability. If these traits are to be considered for inclusion in future dairy goat breeding programs, relationships between them and production traits such as milk yield must be considered. With the increased use of regression models to estimate genetic parameters, an opportunity now exists to investigate correlations between conformation traits and milk yield throughout lactation in more detail. The aims of this study were therefore to (1) estimate genetic parameters for conformation traits in a population of crossbred dairy goats, (2) estimate correlations between all conformation traits, and (3) assess the relationship between conformation traits and milk yield throughout lactation. No information on milk composition was available. Data were collected from goats based on 2 commercial goat farms during August and September in 2013 and 2014. Ten conformation traits, relating to udder, teat, leg, and feet characteristics, were scored on a linear scale (1–9). The overall data set comprised data available for 4,229 goats, all in their first lactation. The population of goats used in the study was created using random crossings between 3 breeds: British Alpine, Saanen, and Toggenburg. In each generation, the best performing animals were selected for breeding, leading to the formation of a synthetic breed. The pedigree file used in the analyses contained sire and dam information for a total of 30,139 individuals. The models fitted relevant fixed and random effects. Heritability estimates for the conformation traits were low to moderate, ranging from 0.02 to 0.38. A range of positive and negative phenotypic and genetic correlations between the traits were observed, with the highest correlations found between udder depth and udder attachment (0.78), teat angle and teat placement (0.70), and back legs and back feet (0.64). The genetic correlations estimated between conformation traits and milk yield across the first lactation demonstrated changes during this period. The majority of correlations estimated between milk yield and the udder and teat traits were negative. Therefore, future breeding programs would benefit from including these traits to ensure that selection for increased productivity is not accompanied by any unwanted change in functional fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5516 - 5525
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusFirst published - 2016

Bibliographical note



  • Conformation
  • Dairy goat
  • Milk yield
  • Random regression


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