Preferences of European dairy stakeholders in breeding for resilient and efficient cattle: A best-worst scaling approach

J. G. Burns*, K. Glenk, V. Eory, G. Simm, E. Wall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Including resilience in the breeding objective of dairy cattle is gaining increasing attention, primarily as anticipated challenges to production systems, such as climate change, may make some perturbations more difficult to moderate at the farm level. Consequently, the underlying biological mechanisms by which resilience is achieved are likely to become an important part of the system itself, increasing value on the animal's ability to be unperturbed by variable production circumstances, or to quickly return to pre-perturbed levels of productivity and health. However, because the value of improving genetic traits to a system is usually based on known profit functions or bioeconomic models linked to current production conditions, it can be difficult to define longer-term value, especially under uncertain future production circumstances and where nonmonetary values may be progressively more important. We present the novel application of a discrete choice experiment, used to investigate potential antagonisms in the values of genetic improvements for 8 traits to dairy cattle system stakeholders in Europe when the production goal was either efficiency or resilience. A latent class model was used to identify heterogeneous preferences within each production goal, and postestimation was used to identify associations between these preferences and sociodemographic characteristics of respondents. Results suggested 3 distinct latent preference classes for each production goal. For the efficiency goal, yield and feed efficiency traits were generally highly valued, whereas for the resilience goal, health and robustness traits were generally highly valued. In both cases, these traits generally carried a low value in the other production scenario. Overall, in both scenarios, longevity was highly valued; however, the value of this trait in terms of resilience will depend on phenotyping across diverse environments to sufficiently capture performance under various anticipated system challenges. Additionally, results showed significant associations between membership of latent preference classes with education level and profession. In conclusion, as resilience becomes increasingly important, it is likely that a continued reliance on the short-term economic value of traits alone will lead decision makers to misrepresent the importance of some traits, including those with substantial contextual values in terms of resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1280
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - 22 Feb 2022


  • breeding objective
  • dairy selection index
  • discrete choice experiment
  • resilient cattle
  • trait preference
  • Europe
  • Longevity
  • Phenotype
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Farms
  • Dairying
  • Milk


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