Improving longevity of dairy cows has long been of economic interest. There is also a societal interest in improving longevity and evidence suggests it is an important factor in mitigating greenhouse gases. Longevity is a complex trait to record and to improve genetically, despite considerable genetic variation being present. In most cases the farmer decides to cull a cow, and it is often for a number of reasons. Also, for animal breeders it takes too long for daughters of a bull to be culled before bull selection can take place. This chapter looks at recent advances in dairy cattle breeding to improve longevity. The importance and challenges of phenotype longevity are first explored followed by sections on the genetics of longevity and selection of animals before lifespan is known. Genetic evaluation and selection for longevity are then discussed. The chapter concludes with a case study on breeding of dairy cattle for productive lifespan in the Netherlands.
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