Genome-wide association and genomic prediction for a reproductive index summarizing fertility outcomes in U.S. Holsteins

Christopher M. Seabury, Johanna L. Smith, Miranda L. Wilson, Eric Bhattarai, Jose E.P. Santos, Ricardo C. Chebel, Klibs N. Galvão, Gustavo M. Schuenemann, Rodrigo C. Bicalho, Rob O. Gilbert, Sandra L. Rodriguez-Zas, Guilherme Rosa, William W. Thatcher, Pablo J. Pinedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subfertility represents one major challenge to enhancing dairy production and efficiency. Herein, we use a reproductive index (RI) expressing the predicted probability of pregnancy following artificial insemination (AI) with Illumina 778K genotypes to perform single and multi-locus genome-wide association analyses (GWAA) on 2,448 geographically diverse U.S. Holstein cows and produce genomic heritability estimates. Moreover, we use genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) to investigate the potential utility of the RI by performing genomic predictions with cross validation. Notably, genomic heritability estimates for the U.S. Holstein RI were moderate (h2 = 0.1654 ± 0.0317–0.2550 ± 0.0348), while single and multi-locus GWAA revealed overlapping quantitative trait loci (QTL) on BTA6 and BTA29, including the known QTL for the daughter pregnancy rate (DPR) and cow conception rate (CCR). Multi-locus GWAA revealed seven additional QTL, including one on BTA7 (60 Mb) which is adjacent to a known heifer conception rate (HCR) QTL (59 Mb). Positional candidate genes for the detected QTL included male and female fertility loci (i.e. spermatogenesis and oogenesis), meiotic and mitotic regulators, and genes associated with immune response, milk yield, enhanced pregnancy rates, and the reproductive longevity pathway. Based on the proportion of the phenotypic variance explained (PVE), all detected QTL (n = 13; P ≤ 5e − 05) were estimated to have moderate (1.0% < PVE ≤ 2.0%) or small effects (PVE ≤ 1.0%) on the predicted probability of pregnancy. Genomic prediction using GBLUP with cross validation (k = 3) produced mean predictive abilities (0.1692–0.2301) and mean genomic prediction accuracies (0.4119–0.4557) that were similar to bovine health and production traits previously investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjkad043
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • GWAA
  • Holstein
  • QTL
  • fertility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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