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GENEX Proprietary Health Traits for Holsteins

Building a Healthier Holstein Herd

The proprietary health traits for Holstein cattle were released in December 2016 and incorporated into the ICC$ Index. All three breeding values are set to a base of 100, with values greater than 100 leading to reduced incidence of the health concern.


Subclinical Ketosis (SCK)
Subclinical-Ketosis-SCK.jpgThe SCK breeding value is an industry-leading comprehensive measure that takes into consideration both clinical (observed) and subclinical ketosis.

With an incidence rate of 40-60% and an average cost of $289 per case of subclinical ketosis, the condition can take a huge financial toll on a herd (incidence rate for the advanced clinical condition is 10-15%).1 Animal health and farm profitability can be improved through selection for SCK, as part of the ICC$ index for Holsteins. Selection for the SCK breeding value is expected to decrease incidence and thereby help minimize associated costs such as lost production, early culling, decreased reproductive performance and subsequent health problems.

SCK is calculated using data from KetoMonitor® which monitors herd ketosis prevalence through layering of milk-based diagnostics and individual cow data. KetoMonitor®, available from AgSource Dairy, was developed in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science and School of Veterinary Medicine. Additional research and breeding value calculation was conducted by GENEX and the Cooperative Resources International (CRI) International Center for Biotechnology.

Metritis (MTR)
Metritis-MTR.jpgStudies have shown metritis reduces milk yield and reproductive performance and negatively affects cows' productive lives through increased culling rates. In fact, the cost per case of metritis averages $396.1 Furthermore, according to the cooperative's research arm, known as the CRI ICB, metritis prevalence in cows less than 45 DIM is 7.9%.2 Said another way, at any one point in time nearly 8% of cows within a herd are observed as having metritis.

MTR, in combination with the ICC$ index, is a valuable sire selection tool to help manage the cost and impact associated with metritis in future generations. The breeding value is calculated by CRI ICB staff using the CRI dairy research database. This database contains more than 54 million health events on nearly 12 million cows.

Foot Health (FH)
Foot-Health-FH.jpgFrom both an economic and animal welfare point of view, foot disorders are a leading concern for dairy herd managers. The frequency in which cows are affected also makes foot health a major priority. According to lameness observations in the CRI dairy research database, lameness has a 14.8% prevalence among dairy cattle with prevalence increasing by lactation. On the economic side, industry studies indicate financial impacts to a dairy can range from $130 to over $450 per case depending on the foot condition.

Through FH, GENEX provides a genetic way to help reduce foot health issues in future generations. The breeding value is calculated by CRI ICB research scientists using the CRI dairy research database. The database contains 54 million health records on nearly 12 million cows.  

J.A.A. McArt, D.V. Nydham, M.W. Overton, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 98, Issue 3, 2015, 2043-2054
2 CRI dairy research database, October 2016.