Passive transfer of immunity is important for calf health and survival. The objectives of this study were to estimate genetic parameters for calf passive transfer of immunity through producer-recorded serum total protein (STP) and to determine associations with other routinely evaluated traits in organic Holstein calves (n = 16,725) that were born between July 2013 to June 2018; a restricted subset (n = 7,518) of calves with known Holstein maternal grandsires was analyzed separately. Producers measured STP on farm, and STP was extracted from farm management software. Failure of passive transfer of immunity (FPT) was declared for calves with STP ≤5.2 g/dL. Calves that had the opportunity to reach 1 yr of age were recorded as either staying in the herd or leaving the herd (STAY365). Univariate and threshold models were fitted for STP and FPT, respectively, and included the fixed effects of herd-year-month of birth, calf age in days at STP measurement, dam age in years, and random effects of animal and birthdate within herd. Model effects for STAY365 included the fixed effects of herd-year-month of birth and random effects of animal and birthdate within herd. Multivariate analyses of STP with FPT or STAY365 were conducted to determine the genetic correlation between traits and STP was also regressed on gestation length. Heritability estimates of STP were 0.06 and 0.08 for full and restricted data, respectively. Heritability estimates for FPT were 0.04 and 0.06 for full and restricted data, respectively. The genetic correlation between STP and FPT was near unity. Heritability estimates for STAY365 ranged from 0.08 to 0.11 with genetic correlation estimates between STP and STAY365 ranging from 0.19 and 0.25. Approximate genetic correlations were estimated for sires (n = 302 and n = 256 for full and restricted data, respectively) with at least 10 daughters for STP and predicted transmitting abilities for health, calving traits, and production. Positive approximate genetic correlations were estimated for STP with cow livability, productive life, net merit dollars, and milk yield; favorable approximate genetic correlations were observed for daughter and sire calving ease, and sire stillbirth. Longer gestation length was associated with reduced STP genetically and phenotypically. These results suggest that passive transfer as measured through STP is heritable and favorably correlated with current measures of health, calving, and production.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology