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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Is fertility declining in dairy cattle? A retrospective study in northeastern Spain.

The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in infertility and reproductive disorders associated with a rising milk yield. Herein, we present a 10-year (from 1991 to 2000) retrospective survey of these factors using data from a reproductive management program performed on high-yielding dairy herds in north-east Spain. The data series included 12,711 lactations. The year was divided into warm and cool periods. Data were obtained from cows first inseminated or examined 45-70 days postpartum. The reproductive tract of each animal was examined by palpation per rectum within 43-48 days postpartum. Cows were then weekly examined until insemination or until postpartum Day 70. Cows with a corpus luteum were synchronized for estrus and timed AI. Cows showing natural estrus in the same period were also inseminated. All inseminations were pooled as a single group and inseminated cows were considered cyclic. Inactive ovaries and ovarian cysts were recorded as ovarian disorders. Incomplete uterine involution, endometritis and pyometra were grouped as uterine disorders.Overall cyclicity and pregnancy rates of all AI cows, and cyclicity and pregnancy rates corresponding to the warm period significantly decreased over the 10-year period, yet remained practically constant during the cool period. The incidence of inactive ovaries in the entire population and that corresponding only to cows examined during the warm period significantly increased with time but was similar during the cool period. Ovarian cysts were more frequent during the warm (12.3%) than during the cool (2.4%) period, though these proportions were maintained throughout the study. The incidence of uterine disorders significantly decreased with time and did not differ between cool and warm periods. Milk yield per cow and year increased from 7800 kg in 1991 to 10,200 kg in 2000. Regression analysis revealed that, for all cows and those inseminated or examined in the warm period respectively, each 1000 kg increase in average milk yield was related to decreases of 3.2 and 6% in pregnancy rate, 4.4 and 7.6% in cyclicity, and to increase of 4.6 and 8% in the incidence of inactive ovaries. The rate of uterine disorders decreased 1.1% regardless of season. Our overall results clearly reflect the increased infertility and incidence of reproductive disorders over the study period. This occurred simultaneous to increasing average milk yield. Nevertheless, under our study conditions, a cool environment appears to preserve fertility and reduce the risk of reproductive disorders irrespective of the milk yield. These findings prompt the need to improve management practices by attempting to reduce the effects of factors provoking stress.[1]


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