Sources of variation in measures of reproductive performance in dairy cattle were evaluated using data collected from 3207 lactations in 1570 cows in 50 herds from five geographic regions of Reunion Island (located off the cast coast of Madagascar). Three continuously distributed reproductive parameters (intervals from calving-to-conception, calving-to-first-service and first-service-to-conception) were considered, along with one Binomial outcome (first-service-conception risk). Multilevel models which take into account the hierarchical nature of the data were used to fit all models. For the overall measure of calving-to-conception interval, 86% of the variation resided at the lactation level with only 7, 6 and 2% at the cow, herd and regional levels, respectively. The proportion of variance at the herd and cow levels were slightly higher for the calving-to-first-service interval (12 and 9%, respectively) - but for the other two parameters (first-service-conception risk and first-service-to-conception interval), >90% of the variation resided at the lactation level. For the three continuous dependent variables, comparison of results between models based on log-transformed data and Box-Cox-transformed data suggested that minor departures from the assumption of normality did not have a substantial effect on the variance estimates. For the Binomial dependent variable, five different estimation procedures (penalised quasi-likelihood, Markov-Chain Monte Carlo, parametric and non-parametric bootstrap estimates and maximum-likelihood) yielded substantially different results for the estimate of the cow-level variance.
- reproductive performance