Modern breeding and new technology improve fertility among cows

Author: Sofia Lindman (KSLA & Hushållningssällskapet) - Date: December 10, 2018

Systems with different types of automatic registration have been developed to assist in dairy cow management. For example, they give alert if a cow needs to be treated or if it is time to inseminate. A study was performed to investigate whether a more effective breeding for fertility can be developed by using information from automatically collected and analyzed milk progesterone from the Herd Navigator system along with classic fertility measurements and information about the cows’ genome.

Pictured: A Belgian dairy farm using the Herd Navigator system

Measurements related to the progesterone profile have higher heritability than the classic measurements, such as the number of days from calving to first insemination. One explanation is that hormone levels depend more directly on the physiology of the cow and are less dependent on management strategies. According to the study, investing in registrations of progesterone does not add any extra information as long as the breeding goal is based on classical fertility traits. But if you have a more physiologically based breeding goal, the reliability increases significantly if such registrations are available.

It may be enough to make the registrations in a limited number of herds. Special contractual herds with high-tech equipment’s that can register these and other traits that are difficult or expensive to measure, such as feed efficiency and methane emission, along with the genotypes of cows, could be a realistic alternative in the future.

In summary, automatic registrations combined with the information about the genome provide great opportunities for improving future breeding program.



Tenghe AMM, Bouwman AC, Berglund B,de Koning DJ, Veerkamp RF. 2018. Improving accuracy of bulls’ predicted genomic breeding values for fertility using daughters’ milk progesterone profiles. Journal of Dairy Science 101, 5177-5193.

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