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Managing metabolic disease and reproductive performance in dairy cattle
  1. Jonathan Statham, MA, VetMB, CertCHP, MRCVS
  1. Bishopton Veterinary Group, Mill Farm, Studley Road, Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 2QR
  1. e-mail: mail{at}

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THE reproductive efficiency of the dairy cow has been described as declining for over a decade (Royal and others 2000, Esslemont and Kossaibati 2002, van Eerdenburg 2006, Yaniz and others 2006), with consequences for the financial sustainability of the dairy industry.

Hudson and others (2010) described the continued decline in reproduction but with a reversal in the last year studied, suggesting an overall improvement in performance. This was largely ascribed to improved submission rates; the trend in conception rate remained downward.

A range of strategies are available to boost submission rates and have been increasingly employed in the face of reproductive challenges. Various oestrus synchronisation programmes have been proposed, including ‘Ovsynch’ and its variations (Cavalieri and others 2006), or with inclusion of progesterone releasing devices (Stevenson and others 2008). Roelofs and others (2005) suggested that pedometers could accurately detect oestrus and might also present a promising tool for prediction of ovulation and hence improve fertilisation rates. Progesterone levels correlate strongly with oestrus and have been widely used in oestrus detection strategies (Firk and others 2002).

However, Royal and others (2000) suggested that over the past 25 years conception rates in UK dairy herds have fallen from about 50 per cent to around 35 per cent. Why? Adequate conception rate is difficult to maintain without effectively addressing the root causes of poor reproductive performance in a herd.

Many factors affect conception rate, including: nutrition, infectious disease, semen quality, timing of insemination, artificial insemination technique, environment, social grouping, heat stress, concurrent disease and genetics, among others (Cook 2009). The main constraint on conception rate in …

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