• Fertility of fresh and frozen sex-sorted semen in dairy cows and heifers in seasonal-calving pasture-based herds

      Maicas, C.; Hutchinson, Ian A.; Kenneally, Jonathon; Grant, Jim; Cromie, A. R.; Lonergan, P.; Butler, Stephen T.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme; Teagasc postdoctoral fellowship; Dovea Genetics; et al. (Elsevier, 2019-08-22)
      Our objective in this study was to evaluate the reproductive performance of dairy heifers and cows inseminated with fresh or frozen sex-sorted semen (SS) in seasonal-calving pasture-based dairy herds. Ejaculates of 10 Holstein-Friesian bulls were split and processed to provide (1) fresh conventional semen at 3 × 106 sperm per straw (CONV); (2) fresh SS at 1 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-1M); (3) fresh SS semen at 2 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-2M); and (4) frozen SS at 2 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-FRZ). Generalized linear mixed models were used to evaluate the effect of semen treatment and other explanatory variables on pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI) in heifers (n = 3,214) and lactating cows (n = 5,457). In heifers, P/AI was greater for inseminations with CONV (60.9%) than with SS-FRZ (52.8%) but did not differ from SS-1M (54.2%) or SS-2M (53.5%). Cows inseminated with CONV had greater P/AI (48.0%) than cows inseminated with SS, irrespective of treatment (SS-1M, SS-2M, and S-FROZEN; 37.6, 38.9, and 40.6%, respectively). None of the SS treatments differed from each other with regard to P/AI in either heifers or cows. The relative performance of SS compared with CONV was also examined [i.e., relative P/AI = (SS P/AI)/(CONV P/AI) × 100]. Frozen SS achieved relative P/AI >84%. Bull affected P/AI in both heifers and cows, but no bull by semen treatment interaction was observed. In heifers, P/AI increased with increasing Predicted Transmitting Ability for milk protein percentage. In cows, P/AI increased with increasing Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and with days in milk (DIM) at AI but decreased with increasing EBI milk subindex, parity and with DIM2. Cows in parity ≥5 had the lowest P/AI and differed from cows in parities 1, 2, or 3. Dispatch-to-AI interval of fresh semen did not affect P/AI in lactating cows, but a dispatch-to-AI interval by bull interaction was detected whereby P/AI was constant for most bulls but increased with greater dispatch-to-AI intervals for 2 bulls. In conclusion, frozen SS achieved greater P/AI relative to conventional semen than was previously reported in lactating cows. Fresh SS did not achieve greater P/AI than frozen SS, regardless of whether the sperm dose per straw was 1 × 106 or 2 × 106. A bull effect for all semen treatments, as well as a dispatch-to-AI interval by bull interaction for fresh semen, highlights the importance of using a large team of bulls for breeding management.
    • Validation of an Automated Body Condition Scoring System Using 3D Imaging

      O’ Leary, Niall O’; Leso, Lorenzo; Buckley, Frank; Kenneally, Jonathon; McSweeney, Diarmuid; Shalloo, Laurence; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13/IA/1977; 16/RC/3835 (MDPI AG, 2020-06-26)
      Body condition scores (BCS) measure a cow’s fat reserves and is important for management and research. Manual BCS assessment is subjective, time-consuming, and requires trained personnel. The BodyMat F (BMF, Ingenera SA, Cureglia, Switzerland) is an automated body condition scoring system using a 3D sensor to estimate BCS. This study assesses the BMF. One hundred and three Holstein Friesian cows were assessed by the BMF and two assessors throughout a lactation. The BMF output is in the 0–5 scale commonly used in France. We develop and report the first equation to convert these scores to the 1–5 scale used by the assessors in Ireland in this study ((0–5 scale × 0.38) + 1.67 → 1–5 scale). Inter-assessor agreement as measured by Lin’s concordance of correlation was 0.67. BMF agreement with the mean of the two assessors was the same as between assessors (0.67). However, agreement was lower for extreme values, particularly in over-conditioned cows where the BMF underestimated BCS relative to the mean of the two human observers. The BMF outperformed human assessors in terms of reproducibility and thus is likely to be especially useful in research contexts. This is the second independent validation of a commercially marketed body condition scoring system as far as the authors are aware. Comparing the results here with the published evaluation of the other system, we conclude that the BMF performed as well or better.