Background. For dairy producers, a reliable description of lactation curves is a valuable tool for management and selection. From a breeding and production viewpoint, milk yield persistency and total milk yield are important traits. Understanding the genetic drivers for the phenotypic variation of both these traits could provide a means for improving these traits in commercial production. Methods. It has been shown that Natural Cubic Smoothing Splines (NCSS) can model the features of lactation curves with greater flexibility than the traditional parametric methods. NCSS were used to model the sire effect on the lactation curves of cows. The sire solutions for persistency and total milk yield were derived using NCSS and a whole-genome approach based on a hierarchical model was developed for a large association study using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). Results. Estimated sire breeding values (EBV) for persistency and milk yield were calculated using NCSS. Persistency EBV were correlated with peak yield but not with total milk yield. Several SNP were found to be associated with both traits and these were used to identify candidate genes for further investigation. Conclusion. NCSS can be used to estimate EBV for lactation persistency and total milk yield, which in turn can be used in whole-genome association studies.