Animal Health

Company shines light on dairy reproduction challenges

By Dairy News

WITH THE global population currently sitting at 7.8 billion and a further two billion expected by 2050 (Source: UN, 2018); milk production has almost doubled in the past 50 years to help meet demand.

And we will likely see even higher production levels in the future.

But Jefo ruminant product manager Hélène Leclerc said as the production level rises, reproduction in dairy herds remains a significant challenge for producers.

Hélène said conception rates in the average Australian herd are unsatisfactory, with an average first service conception rate of 38 per cent and pregnancy rate as low as 11 per cent.

Moreover, she said days open range from 154 to 127 for lower and higher production level herds respectively (reference).

“This difference of 27 days will have a significant economic impact as each day open will cost approximately $4 to $5, which means an annual cost of $108 per cow or $10 800 yearly for a herd of 100 cows,” Hélène said.

Although reproductive problems may look like they occur suddenly, research demonstrates reproductive challenges are the result of health, nutrition or management issues that may have occurred months earlier.

Several factors will impact the reproductive performance of cows, such as health around calving, cow comfort, heat stress, loss of body condition before calving and in early lactation.

In addition, Hélène said it was essential to properly feed the cow before calving to ensure follicle development and a functional ovarian activity very early in lactation.

She said a delayed ovulation will only result in fewer cows pregnant early.

“In fact, only 45 per cent of cows will be pregnant at 150 days in milk (DIM) when their first ovulation occurs after 50 DIM, compared to 75 per cent pregnant when they ovulate earlier (Butler R., 201),” Hélène added.

There are two major periods impacting the reproductive performance of dairy cows; and they are:

Transition Period

During the transition period, the combination of reduced dry matter intake and sudden increase of requirements for milk production, create a negative energy balance (Jorritsma et al., 2003).

Maintaining dry matter intake during the week(s) before calving with an increase after calving is crucial to reduce the extent of negative energy balance (Jorritsma et al., 2003), and to improve the metabolic health of transition cows (Oetzel, 2010).

Early Lactation

In early lactation, a loss of body condition due an insufficient DMI to meet the need for energy (glucose) and other important nutrients can create a dysfunctional immune response including cytokine releases (reference).

Hélène said all of these will have a negative effect on reproductive performance including higher early embryonic loss.

She said nutritional composition of feed; including energy, protein (amino acids), minerals, vitamins A, D3 and E, as well as other essential nutrients such as B vitamins, play a key role in the reproductive performance of dairy cows.

  • Improving energy balance by maintaining DMI before calving and increasing DMI in early lactation (Morrison et al., 2018).
  • Improving immune function, follicular and early embryo development (Kaur et al., 2019; Richard et al., 2016; Evans et al.,

“Some specific B vitamins are involved as enzyme cofactors at the cell level for energy (glucose, fat), protein and others important synthesis,” Hélène said.

“More specifically, folic acid plays an important role in the embryo cellular development in cattle (Kwong et al., 2010),” she said.

“Different blends of protected B vitamins (one for the transition period and one for the lactation period ) have been shown to improve reproductive performance. Supplementing a blend of protected B vitamins for the lactation period until cows got confirmed pregnant was shown to increase their first service conception rate by 13 per cent with that same increase maintained at 200 DIM. The culling rate from that same period dropped by 20 per cent (Juchem et al., 2012).

“The supplementation of another blend of protected B vitamins specific for the transition period did increase the percentage of cows pregnant at 100 DIM from 34.1 per cent to 63.4 per cent. “Those cows were also healthier and had a higher DMI before calving (Evans et al., 2006).”

Hélène said many researchers are showing dairy cows are responding positively to the supplementation of protected B vitamins in the diet, meaning those specific protected B vitamins blends promote an enhanced reproduction in dairy cows.

She said since B vitamins are rapidly degraded by the rumen microbes, they must be protected from rumen degradation to reach the intestine where they will be absorbed.

“Jefo Matrix Technology protection keeps active ingredients from ruminal degradation and allows for targeted release in the intestine for high digestibility.”

Contact Jefo Matric Technology by phoning (07) 4630 1500 or 0429 301 500