NTM Unlocked
General Health index - Part 1

In this and our next post, we are going to talk about General Health. The General Health index was included into our NTM index already in 1986. The General Health index is strongly correlated to NTM, and for VikingHolstein that number is 46%.  It also has a strong correlation with Longevity (39%), Daughter Fertility (32%), Udder Health (28%) and Hoof Health (25%). That means that a healthy cow also lives long, gets pregnant, has good udder health and strong feet. 

General Health is a very important trait, both for dairy cows’ well-being and comfort but also of economic reasons. With more than 80 different disease diagnoses covered by the General Health index, it is a very important addition to the Udder Health and Hoof Health traits in NTM. By relying on health traits in NTM, you really get a full declaration on cows’ health. 
The General Health index describes the bull’s daughters’ genetic potential to resist reproductive, metabolic and feet & leg diseases. This trait consists of five sub-traits with the breeding values available for each of them: 

  • Early reproductive disorders  (e.g. Retained placenta)
  • Late reproductive disorders
  • Metabolic diseases (e.g. metritis, milk fever)
  • Ketosis
  • Feet and leg problems
Acetone and BHB (Beta hydroxybutyrate) – measure of ketone bodies which indicates (sub)clinical ketosis from milk recording are used as indicators to increase reliability of the breeding values. 

The General Health index is calculated based on health records made by veterinarian from first three lactations. Official registrations are made for 90% of cows on all farms in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. That results in a high reliability of breeding values for general health. 
In our next post, we will talk about how much improvement you can expect from a bull with high breeding values for General Health sub-indices. 

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