New Grant Funds Study of Dairy Productivity and Fertility

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Groundbreaking grant

A new multi-state $3 million USDA grant has been approved to study the effects of selective breeding in dairy cattle and how it has reduced the herd’s ability to produce offspring. For many years, dairy farmers have been selectively breeding their cattle to encourage better milk production. However, now it seems that by doing so, the very same cattle are now having trouble reproducing. Kind of ironic that by keeping up with our demand for milk, cheese, and other dairy products, we are damaging the animals that will be responsible for tomorrow’s dairy products. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

A huge study

The study, which will include scientists from five veterinary schools nationwide (UF, Texas A&M, Cornell, Ohio State and the University of Minnesota), will include 1200 cows from different areas of the country. The scientists will make sure that the cows represent different breeding protocols (heat detection/synchronization of ovulation programs), different U.S. geographic regions and different types of facilities. Phenotypes will be explored using traditional time intervals and conception results (conception rate, number of services per conception, time to first breeding/conception), with physiologic measures and intermediate events such as resumption of ovarian cyclicity, postpartum uterine health (retained placenta, metritis and endometritis), and early embryonic and fetal loss. The scientists will also collect DNA from each and every cow.

The experts say

After that, the cows will be grouped into two groups, the least fertile and the most fertile, and the scientists will try to find links between the cows in each group.

“It is our central hypothesis that reproductive efficiency depends, to some extent, on biological factors that are influenced and modulated by genetic variation,”

said Dr. Rodrigo Bicalho, assistant professor of dairy production medicine at Cornell and a co-principal investigator with Dr. Robert Gilbert for the project at Cornell.

“Because of this, we expect to find differences in the DNA for the most fertile cows as compared to the least fertile cows. With this data, we can develop a genetic test that can be used to predict fertility immediately after birth, eliminating our current reliance on the very time-consuming and costly process of selecting from registered and phenotypically beautiful animals with good pedigrees,”

he said.

“Sometimes looks and lineage can be deceiving, but currently it takes years to confirm this.”

What happens next

This study is huge for the dairy industry as well as the field of veterinary medicine as a whole. It will hopefully help dairy farmers develop better ways and standards for breeding. The study will help the farmers of tomorrow, as well, since the research will be used to educate 4H, FFA, graduate and undergraduate veterinary students on the best practices for dairy cow breeding. It is a huge deal, and will go a long way towards teaching farmers how to best decide which bulls to breed with which cows, and will help to combat dairy cattle fertility issues as well.

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Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD
Dr. Prabha Sahgal, MD | ConceiveEasy
Dr. Prabha Sahgal MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and subspecialty board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Sahgal holds a B.S. degree from MIT in molecular biology and currently serves on the ConceiveEasy board of directors.