La Trobe
1329620_Stephen,M_2023.pdf (1.1 MB)

Genome-wide association study of anogenital distance and its (co)variances with fertility in growing and lactating Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle

Download (1.1 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-08, 02:00 authored by MA Stephen, CR Burke, N Steele, Jennie PryceJennie Pryce, S Meier, PR Amer, CVC Phyn, DJ Garrick
Anogenital distance (AGD) is a moderately heritable trait that can be measured at a young age that may provide an opportunity to indirectly select for improved fertility in dairy cattle. In this study, we characterized AGD and its genetic and phenotypic relationships with a range of body stature and fertility traits. We measured AGD, shoulder height, body length, and body weight in a population of 5,010 Holstein-Friesian and Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbred heifers at approximately 11 mo of age (AGD1). These animals were born in 2018 across 54 seasonal calving, pasture-based dairy herds. A second measure of AGD was collected in a subset of herds (n = 17; 1,956 animals) when the animals averaged 29 mo of age (AGD2). Fertility measures included age at puberty (AGEP), then time of calving, breeding, and pregnancy during the first and second lactations. We constructed binary traits reflecting the animal's ability to calve during the first 42 d of their herd's seasonal calving period (CR42), be presented for breeding during the first 21 d of the seasonal breeding period (PB21) and become pregnant during the first 42 d of the seasonal breeding period (PR42). The posterior mean of sampled heritabilities for AGD1 was 0.23, with 90% of samples falling within a credibility interval (90% CRI) of 0.20 to 0.26, whereas the heritability of AGD2 was 0.29 (90% CRI 0.24 to 0.34). The relationship between AGD1 and AGD2 was highly positive, with a genetic correlation of 0.89 (90% CRI 0.82 to 0.94). Using a GWAS analysis of 2,460 genomic windows based on 50k genotype data, we detected a region on chromosome 20 that was highly associated with variation in AGD1, and a second region on chromosome 13 that was moderately associated with variation in AGD1. We did not detect any genomic regions associated with AGD2 which was measured in fewer animals. The genetic correlation between AGD1 and AGEP was 0.10 (90% CRI 0.00 to 0.19), whereas the genetic correlation between AGD2 and AGEP was 0.30 (90% CRI 0.15 to 0.44). The timing of calving, breeding, and pregnancy (CR42, PB21, and PR42) during first or second lactations exhibited moderate genetic relationships with AGD1 (0.19 to 0.52) and AGD2 (0.46 to 0.63). Genetic correlations between AGD and body stature traits were weak (≤0.16). We conclude that AGD is a moderately heritable trait, which may have value as an early-in-life genetic predictor for reproductive success during lactation.


This study was funded by New Zealand dairy farmers through DairyNZ Inc. (Hamilton, Waikato, NZ) and by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (DRCX1302; Wellington, NZ).


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science






15p. (p. 7846-7860)





Rights Statement

© 2023, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles



    Ref. manager