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Open Access Research

Temporal trends in reproductive performance in Irish dairy herds and associated risk factors

John F Mee

Author Affiliations

Teagasc, Dairy Production Research Department, Dairy Production Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork, Ireland

Irish Veterinary Journal 2004, 57:158-166  doi:10.1186/2046-0481-57-3-158

Published: 1 March 2004

Abstract

Irish dairy herd fertility has been declining since the 1980s. The extent, nature and causes of this decline in fertility and the current status of Irish dairy herd fertility were described. An increase in calving interval of approximately one day per year has been recorded. The principal components of this trend have been an increased incidence of postpartum endocrinopathies, reduced expression of oestrus and a fall in conception rate. Both submission rate and calving-to-service interval have increased slightly over time. Significant risk factors associated with these trends have been strain substitution within the Holstein-Friesian breed and single trait selection for milk production. Critically, these changes have been reflected in loss of body condition. Contributory factors included increased herd size and possibly increased use of DIYAI. The most recent Irish study showed that 48% of cows conceived to first service and 14% of cows were not pregnant at the end of the industry-average 15-week spring breeding season. However, the top quartile of herds achieved a first-service conception rate of 59%, illustrating the wide variation between herds. These phenotypic trends were attributed to both genetic and environmental factors and their interactions. Recent Irish dairy herd fertility performance falls short of the targets set for seasonal compact calving.

Keywords:
Cattle; Fertility; Genetics; Nutrition; Management