Genetic merit for fertility traits in Holstein cows: I. Production characteristics and reproductive efficiency in a pasture-based system
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CitationS.B. Cummins, P. Lonergan, A.C.O. Evans, D.P. Berry, R.D. Evans, S.T. Butler. Genetic merit for fertility traits in Holstein cows: I. Production characteristics and reproductive efficiency in a pasture-based system. Journal of Dairy Science, 95(3), March 2012: 1310-1322. DOI:10.3168/jds.2011-4742
AbstractThe objective of the present study was to characterize the phenotypic performance of cows with similar proportions of Holstein genetics, similar genetic merit for milk production traits, but with good (Fert+) or poor (Fert−) genetic merit for fertility traits. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that cows with a negative estimated breeding value for calving interval would have superior fertility performance and would have detectable differences in body reserve mobilization and circulating concentrations of metabolic hormones and metabolites compared with cows that had a positive estimated breeding value for calving interval. For the duration of the study, cows were managed identically as a single herd in a typical grass-based, spring-calving production system. A total of 80 lactation records were available from 26 Fert+ and 26 Fert− cows over 2 consecutive years (2008 and 2009). During yr 1, cows were monitored during a 20-wk breeding season to evaluate reproductive performance. Milk production, body condition score (scale 1 to 5), body weight, grass dry matter intake, energy balance, and metabolic hormone and metabolite data were collected during both years. The Fert+ cows had greater daily milk yield (19.5 vs. 18.7 kg/d), shorter interval from calving to conception (85.6 vs. 113.8 d), and fewer services per cow (1.78 vs. 2.83). No difference between groups in grass dry matter intake, energy balance, or body weight was observed. The Fert+ cows maintained greater BCS during mid (2.84 vs. 2.74 units) and late lactation (2.82 vs. 2.73 units). Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-I were greater throughout the gestation-lactation cycle in Fert+ cows (148.3 vs. 128.2 ng/mL). The Fert+ cows also had greater circulating concentrations of insulin during the first 4 wk of lactation (1.71 vs. 1.24 μIU/mL). Analysis of records from national herd data verified the association between genetic merit for fertility traits and phenotypic reproductive performance; Fert+ cows (n = 2,436) required 11.1 d less to recalve than did Fert− cows (n = 1,388), and the percentage of cows that successfully calved for the second time within 365 and 400 d of the first calving was 8 and 13% greater for Fert+ compared with Fert− cows, respectively. These results demonstrate that genetic merit for fertility traits had a pronounced effect on reproductive efficiency, BCS profiles, and circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-I.