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DAIRY farmers need to make a real-time decision about immediate or delayed insemination once a cow is in oestrus. The biological and economic consequences of this decision for a given cow depend on both cow and herd characteristics with important implications in the short and long term. Even so, given the frequency and complexity of the decision and the uncertainty of the outcomes, it may be tempting for farmers and their veterinary advisers to resort to rules of thumb, habit or conjecture when making decisions or advising on this and other reproduction-related decisions. However, the potential benefits of better fertility management, the apparent scope for improvement and the insidious nature of mistakes justify decision analysis in this area and associated decision support systems (Stott and others 1999).
In a paper summarised on p 17 of this week's Veterinary Record, Steeneveld and Hogeveen (2012) present a decision support system for determining the economic consequences of immediate or delayed insemination of a cow in oestrus, based on a dataset from 90 cows from 10 Dutch farms. They found that delaying the insemination can impose an economic loss of, on average, e18 (£14) per cow …
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