Random regression models using different functions to model test-day milk yield of Brazilian Holstein cows
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We analyzed 152,145 test-day records from 7317 first lactations of Holstein cows recorded from 1995 to 2003. Our objective was to model variations in test-day milk yield during the first lactation of Holstein cows by random regression model (RRM), using various functions in order to obtain adequate and parsimonious models for the estimation of genetic parameters. Test-day milk yields were grouped into weekly classes of days in milk, ranging from 1 to 44 weeks. The contemporary groups were defined as herd-test-day. The analyses were performed using a single-trait RRM, including the direct additive, permanent environmental and residual random effects. In addition, contemporary group and linear and quadratic effects of the age of cow at calving were included as fixed effects. The mean trend of milk yield was modeled with a fourth-order orthogonal Legendre polynomial. The additive genetic and permanent environmental covariance functions were estimated by random regression on two parametric functions, Ali and Schaeffer and Wilmink, and on B-spline functions of days in milk. The covariance components and the genetic parameters were estimated by the restricted maximum likelihood method. Results from RRM parametric and B-spline functions were compared to RRM on Legendre polynomials and with a multi-trait analysis, using the same data set. Heritability estimates presented similar trends during mid-lactation (13 to 31 weeks) and between week 37 and the end of lactation, for all RRM. Heritabilities obtained by multi-trait analysis were of a lower magnitude than those estimated by RRM. The RRMs with a higher number of parameters were more useful to describe the genetic variation of test-day milk yield throughout the lactation. RRM using B-spline and Legendre polynomials as base functions appears to be the most adequate to describe the covariance structure of the data.