Symposium review: Genetics, genome-wide association study, and genetic improvement of dairy fertility traits


Source: Journal of Dairy Science, L. Ma1,†, J.B. ColeY. DaP.M. VanRaden2


Before fertility traits were incorporated into selection, dairy cattle breeding primarily focused on production traits, which resulted in an unfavorable decline in the reproductive performance of dairy cattle. This reduced fertility is constantly challenging the dairy industry on the efficiency and sustainability of dairy production. Recent development of genomic selection on fertility traits has stabilized and even reversed the decreasing trend, showing the effectiveness of genomic selection. Meanwhile, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been performed to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) and candidate genes associated with dairy fertility, providing a better understanding of the genetic architecture of fertility traits. In this review, we provide an overview of the genetics of fertility traits, summarize the findings from existing GWAS of female fertility in dairy cattle, and update the recent research progress in US dairy cattle. Because of the polygenic nature of fertility traits, many GWAS of dairy fertility tended to be underpowered. Only 1 major QTL, on BTA18, was identified across multiple studies. This QTL was associated with a range of fertility traits from conception to calving, but the candidate gene or mutation is still missing. Collectively, with the promising success from genomic selection but low power of GWAS on dairy fertility traits, this review calls for continuous data collection of fertility traits to enable more powerful studies of dairy fertility in the future.