Over the last two decades, the dairy sector has seen a revolution in herd fertility success. Widespread fertility programmes, as well as the industry’s greater understanding—and optimization—of the holistic relationships between a dairy cow’s body condition, general health, and fertility, are at the core of this leap ahead. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University synthesise the past three decades of scientific research explaining these relationships and highlight the key actionable takeaways for establishing and maintaining high fertility in a dairy herd in a recent mini-review published in a special fertility issue of JDS Communications®, published by Elsevier.
One of the co-authors, Richard Pursley, PhD, of Michigan State University, created the phrase “high fertility cycle” to reflect this knowledge of the interconnected components on a dairy farm that combine to promote reproductive success.
“We now know that reproductive success is tied to other health markers in a dairy herd after two or more decades of research,” Pursley explained, “and we set out to show how this knowledge can be utilised to maximise a herd’s fertility rate through simple, applicable changes in farm production management.”
In their mini-review, the scientists looked back over three decades of dairy research to give the fundamental findings on this issue. They begin by creating a link between fertility and the bodily condition score (BCS), which is a consistent 5-point scoring system in.A realistic management tool for Holstein cows that is 25 increments long and utilised to understand their body fat or energy levels.
“We know from the research that healthier postpartum cows have better embryo quality, higher fertility at first insemination, and fewer early pregnancy losses after becoming pregnant,” said co-author Paul Fricke, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Furthermore, BCS reduction after calving was linked to an increase in health difficulties, while maintaining or increasing BCS after calving was linked to less reported health events, such as metritis, mastitis, ketosis, and pneumonia.
So, how can dairy farms guarantee that their herds retain or grow BCS after calving in order to produce healthy cows and good reproductive rates? According to the study, the crucial aspect is calving cows with a BCS between 2.75 and 3.0, which may be accomplished by employing an intensive reproductive control programme. Getting cows pregnant as soon as the voluntary waiting period ends assures a lower BCS at calving, which leads to less body condition loss after calving and hence healthier cows who are more reproductive and better able to get pregnant again, resuming the cycle.