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Poor Reproductive Performance in Dairy Cows

How can dairy cow reproductive performance be improved?

A successful dairy cow breeding season starts with early lactation management. Getting cows off to the best possible start in early lactation is essential. During the spring season, it is imperative to ensure that the nutrient intake of the cow is adequately meeting her needs. Poor management during this critical stage can lead to reduced intake and a decline in body condition score (BCS), thereby leading to fertility issues, which can have a significant impact on profitability.

What are some possible causes of poor dairy cow fertility?

  • Improper timing of AI or improper AI technique
  • Poor body condition (Low BCS)
  • Over-conditioning (High BCS)
  • Heat stress
  • Uterine infection
  • Embryonic or fetal mortality
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Disease
  • Mycotoxins
  • Anemia
  • Hormonal imbalance

How can I improve dairy cow fertility?

  • Close the energy gap. Cows will inevitably be in a negative energy balance during early lactation because their peak milk yield occurs before their peak dry matter intake. As a result, they will lose some weight. Managing cows appropriately and adjusting rations accordingly can minimize BCS loss during this period.
  • Maximize immunity and health. Early lactation is typically stressful, as there are several physiological and nutritional changes taking place during this time. It is very important to ensure that cows have an optimal immune status during early lactation in order to maximize fertility. Some cows will have a higher risk of uterine infections due to retained placenta and metritis after calving. Uterine infections and ovarian problems will inevitably influence fertility. Trace minerals, such as selenium, play a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system during the calving period. Other trace minerals, such as copper, and major minerals, like phosphorus, play key roles in ovulation and cycling. If there is a deficiency in either, the possibility of anestrus becomes more likely. Research has proven that feeding these trace minerals in their organic form leads to these minerals being better absorbed, stored and utilized by the cow.
  • Look after the rumen. The rumen is essentially the engine that drives the cow. The key to getting more from feed is to ensure that the rumen is working as efficiently as possible. Increased nutrient absorption allows for more milk production and reduces the need for the cow to take these valuable nutrients from its own body reserves. This depletion of body reserves lies at the core of cow health and infertility issues. The rumen is not designed for abrupt changes, so it is recommended that cows are gradually introduced to grass in early lactation and, if possible, are brought in at night for the first 7 to 10 days post-calving. If turned out too quickly, the cow’s grass intake will likely not meet her energy requirements, which will have a negative impact on her BCS.