The term “functional traits” describes a set of characteristics of animals whose effect on the economic efficiency of cows is through reduction of costs rather than increase of product output (Groen et al., 1997). It replaced, and rightly so, the term “secondary traits”, which was still used as a session heading during the 5th WCGALP at Guelph. McDaniel (1994) chairing this session, pointed out that at the time experience with genetic evaluations of health, reproductive traits, herd life and others was still limited. One of the problems he saw was the low heritability of many of the traits, another one the incompleteness and inaccuracy of data on individual cows. In the meantime research on those traits has intensified (see, e.g., the proceedings of the 6th WCGALP at Armidale). Even more significant, many data processing centres and breeding associations are nowadays routinely computing and publishing breeding value estimates even for such complicated traits (in a statistical sense) as herd life. Partly this process was stimulated by an EU-sponsored Concerted Action, with participating scientists from all EU countries, the Czech Republic, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Canada and INTERBULL. GIFT - the acronym stands for “genetic improvement of functional traits in cattle” - brought these people together to discuss issues of recording and genetic evaluation of functional traits and enhanced collaborative efforts and exchange of computer programs used for the genetic analysis of functional traits. Its main activities were a series of workshops held from spring 1997 to autumn 1999. The workshops were organised by subject areas (groups of similar traits), with a final workshop on breeding objectives and selection schemes. The proceedings of all workshops were published as Interbull Bulletins 12, 15, 18, 19, 21 and 23. One of the obvious questions in current dairy cattle breeding is how to combine results from evaluations on production, functional traits and conformation. Different countries and organisations went different ways and some claim that their ways are more “balanced” than those of others. Starting from the theory of the optimal selection index, we will try to evaluate the effect of different digressions from the optimal index. We will use the index and breeding programme currently implemented in the Brown Swiss population of Austria as a reference point. From November 2002, a slightly modified index will be used in the joint evaluation system of Germany and Austria.

Johann Sölkner, C. Fuerst

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume 2002. Session 1, , 1.17, 2002
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