Articles | Volume 43, issue 6
10 Oct 2000
 | 10 Oct 2000

Total merit indices in dual purpose cattle

J. Sölkner, J. Miesenberger, A. Willam, C. Fuerst, and R. Baumung

Abstract. The economic efficiency of dual purpose cattle is influenced by a large number of traits which may be classified in groups of dairy, beef and functional traits. The combination of estimated breeding values for single traits in a total merit index, as long practised in some Scandinavian countries, is currently being implemented in a number of Central European states. Economic values for populations of dual purpose cattle in Austria derived from a deterministic herd model are presented. Traits in the dairy group are fat and protein yield; beef traits are daily gain, dressing percentage and carcass conformation; functional traits are longevity, persistency, fertility, calving ease, stillbirth and somatic cell count. A rough average over populations of the relative economic importance of dairy vs. beef vs. functional traits is 37:18:45 (economic weights of the traits are scaled with their genetic Standard deviations, differences in expression of traits are taken into account). Due to the covariance structure of the traits most of the gain is expected for fat and protein yield (moderate heritabilities and high positive correlation of the two traits). The proportions in expected monetary gains from the three sets of traits are 81:9:10. Omission of beef and functional traits from the index would lead to a 13 percent loss in total merit and negative responses for beef and functional traits. Inclusion of conformation as an early predictor of longevity has very little effect on total merit. The indices presented are compared with total merit indices used in other European countries.