Background: Somatic cell score (SCS) has been promoted as a selection criterion to improve mastitis resistance. However, SCS from healthy and infected animals may be considered as separate traits. Moreover, imperfect sensitivity and specificity could influence animals’ classification and impact on estimated variance components. This study was aimed at: (1) estimating the heritability of bacteria negative SCS, bacteria positive SCS, and infectionstatus, (2) estimating phenotypic and genetic correlations between bacteria negative and bacteria positive SCS, andthe genetic correlation between bacteria negative SCS and infection status, and (3) evaluating the impact of imperfect diagnosis of infection on variance component estimates.Methods: Data on SCS and udder infection status for 1,120 ewes were collected from four Valle del Belice flocks. The pedigree file included 1,603 animals. The SCS dataset was split according to whether animals were infected or not at the time of sampling. A repeatability test-day animal model was used to estimate genetic parameters for SCS traits and the heritability of infection status. The genetic correlation between bacteria negative SCS and infection status was estimated using an MCMC threshold model, implemented by Gibbs Sampling.Results: The heritability was 0.10 for bacteria negative SCS, 0.03 for bacteria positive SCS, and 0.09 for infection status, on the liability scale. The genetic correlation between bacteria negative and bacteria positive SCS was 0.62, suggesting that they may be genetically different traits. The genetic correlation between bacteria negative SCS and infection status was 0.51. We demonstrate that imperfect diagnosis of infection leads to underestimation of differences between bacteria negative and bacteria positive SCS, and we derive formulae to predict impacts on estimated genetic parameters.Conclusions: The results suggest that bacteria negative and bacteria positive SCS are genetically different traits. A positive genetic correlation between bacteria negative SCS and liability to infection was found, suggesting that the approach of selecting animals for decreased SCS should help to reduce mastitis prevalence. However, the results show that imperfect diagnosis of infection has an impact on estimated genetic parameters, which may reduce the efficiency of selection strategies aiming at distinguishing between bacteria negative and bacteria positive SCS.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Genetics Selection Evolution|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology