• Ovarian structures and uterine environment are associated with phenotypic and genetic merit for performance in lactating dairy cows

      Fitzgerald, A.M.; Ryan, D.P.; Carthy, T.R.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh (Elsevier BV, 2014-12)
      The objective of this study was to estimate the association between detailed reproductive phenotypes for cows categorized as divergent for phenotypic and genetic performance. The hypothesis was that higher yielding animals, either phenotypically or genetically, would have compromised ovarian and uterine reproductive performance. Detailed reproductive traits including multiple ovulations, cystic ovarian structures, corpus luteum (CL) presence, and uterine environment were available on 9675 ultrasound records from 8174 dairy lactating cows, calved between 10 and 70 days. Cows were categorized, within parity, into low, average, or high for each of the performance traits. There was a greater likelihood of multiple ovulations in cows with greater phenotypic yields (odds ratio: 1.53–1.81) and greater genetic merit for yield (odds ratio: 1.31–1.59) relative to lower performing contemporaries. After adjustment for genetic merit, a similar trend of increased odds (odds ratio: 1.29–1.87) of multiple ovulations in higher yielding cows was observed compared with the lowest yielding category. There was no association between either phenotypic milk composition or genetic merit for milk composition with the likelihood of multiple ovulations. The likelihood of cystic ovarian structures was highest in cows with greatest phenotypic milk yields (odds ratio: 2.75–3.24), greater genetic merit for milk yield (odds ratio: 1.30–1.51), and even after adjustment for genetic merit there was a greater likelihood of cystic ovarian structures in cows with the highest milk yields (odds ratio: 2.71–2.95), compared with cows in the lowest category for each of the milk traits. Cows with average phenotypic milk yields were more likely to have a CL, compared with the lowest yielding category (odds ratio: 1.20–1.23), and these associations remained after adjustment for genetic merit of the trait. The likelihood of CL presence was highest in cows with the lowest genetic merit for milk. Lower fat:protein ratio was associated with an increased likelihood of CL presence compared with cows with greater fat:protein ratio and cows with the highest phenotypic milk composition were more likely to have a CL compared with cows in the lowest composition category. Genetic predisposition to higher somatic cell score was associated with a reduced risk of multiple ovulations (odds ratio: 0.69; 95% CI: 0.55–0.87) but an increased likelihood of CL presence (odds ratio: 2.66; 95% CI: 2.09–3.37) and poorer uterine health score (odds ratio: 1.36; 95% CI: 1.20–1.55). There was a lower likelihood of multiple ovulations, cystic ovarian structures, and poorer uterine health and an increased likelihood of CL presence in cows with superior genetic merit for reproductive performance and survival.