The relationships between insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and the fertility and milk yield of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were investigated. The concentration of IGF-I in blood was measured weekly from one week before to 12 weeks after calving in 177 multiparous cows and at four times during this period in 142 primiparous cows; the concentration of IGF-I in milk was measured in 50 of the multiparous cows. The plasma concentrations of IGF-I were higher in the primiparous than in the multiparous animals. In the primiparous cows, high concentrations of IGF-I before calving were associated with longer calving to conception intervals. Conversely, in the multiparous cows low concentrations of IGF-1 before and after calving were associated with a failure to conceive, despite repeated services. Multiparous cows with IGF-I concentrations of greater than 25 ng/ml in the week after calving were 11 times more likely to conceive to first service than those with lower concentrations. Concentrations of IGF-I greater than 50 ng/ml at first service increased the likelihood of conception five-fold. Cows with higher peak milk yields had lower plasma concentrations of IGF-I and took longer to return to ovarian cyclicity. The negative relationship between milk yield and return to cyclicity was stronger in the multiparous cows (P<0˙002) than in the primiparous cows (P<0˙04). The concentrations of IGF-I in milk followed a different pattern and were not associated with the changes in plasma IGF-I or fertility.
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