Skip to main content Accessibility help

Risk factors associated with detailed reproductive phenotypes in dairy and beef cows

  • T. R. Carthy (a1) (a2), D. P. Berry (a1), A. Fitzgerald (a1) (a3), S. McParland (a1), E. J. Williams (a2), S. T. Butler (a1), A. R. Cromie (a4) and D. Ryan (a3)...


The objective of this study was to identify detailed fertility traits in dairy and beef cattle from transrectal ultrasonography records and quantify the associated risk factors. Data were available on 148 947 ultrasound observations of the reproductive tract from 75 949 cows in 843 Irish dairy and beef herds between March 2008 and October 2012. Traits generated included (1) cycling at time of examination, (2) cystic structures, (3) early ovulation, (4) embryo death and (5) uterine score; the latter was measured on a scale of 1 (good) to 4 (poor) characterising the tone of the uterine wall and fluid present in the uterus. After editing, 72 773 records from 44 415 dairy and beef cows in 643 herds remained. Factors associated with the logit of the probability of a positive outcome for each of the binary fertility traits were determined using generalised estimating equations; linear mixed model analysis was used for the analysis of uterine score. The prevalence of cycling, cystic structures, early ovulation and embryo death was 84.75%, 3.87%, 7.47% and 3.84%, respectively. The occurrence of the uterine heath score of 1, 2, 3 and 4 was 70.63%, 19.75%, 8.36% and 1.26%, respectively. Cows in beef herds had a 0.51 odds (95% CI=0.41 to 0.63, P<0.001) of cycling at the time of examination compared with cows in dairy herds; stage of lactation at the time of examination was the same in both herd types. Furthermore, cows in dairy herds had an inferior uterine score (indicating poorer tone and a greater quantity of uterine fluid present) compared with cows in beef herds. The likelihood of cycling at the time of examination increased with parity and stage of lactation, but was reduced in cows that had experienced dystocia in the previous calving. The presence of cystic structures on the ovaries increased with parity and stage of lactation. The likelihood of embryo/foetal death increased with parity and stage of lactation. Dystocia was not associated with the presence of cystic structures or embryo death. Uterine score improved with parity and stage of lactation, while cows that experienced dystocia in the previous calving had an inferior uterine score. Heterosis was the only factor associated with increased likelihood of early ovulation. The fertility traits identified, and the associated risk factors, provide useful information on the reproductive status of dairy and beef cows.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Albarrán-Portillo, B and Pollott, GE 2013. The relationship between fertility and lactation characteristics in holstein cows on united kingdom commercial dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science 96, 635646.
Arthur, P 1995. Double muscling in cattle: a review. Crop and Pasture Science 46, 14931515.
Beam, SW and Butler, WR 1998. Energy balance, metabolic hormones, and early postpartum follicular development in dairy cows fed prilled lipid. Journal of Dairy Science 81, 121131.
Berry, D, Veerkamp, R and Dillon, P 2006. Phenotypic profiles for body weight, body condition score, energy intake, and energy balance across different parities and concentrate feeding levels. Livestock Science 104, 112.
Berry, D, Bastiaansen, J, Veerkamp, R, Wijga, S, Wall, E, Berglund, B and Calus, M 2012. Genome-wide associations for fertility traits in Holstein–Friesian dairy cows using data from experimental research herds in four european countries. Animal 6, 12061215.
Berry, DP and Evans, RD 2013. Genetics of reproductive performance in seasonal calving beef cows and its association with performance traits. Journal of Animal Science 92, doi:10.2527/jas.2013-6723.
Berry, DP, Bermingham, ML, Good, M and More, SJ 2011. Genetics of animal health and disease in cattle. Irish Veterinary Journal 64, 110.
Bruun, J, Ersbøll, AK and Alban, L 2002. Risk factors for metritis in Danish dairy cows. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 54, 179190.
Crowe, M 2008. Resumption of ovarian cyclicity in post‐partum beef and dairy cows. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 43, 2028.
Diskin, MG, Murphy, JJ and Sreenan, JM 2006. Embryo survival in dairy cows managed under pastoral conditions. Animal Reproduction Science 96, 297311.
Dubuc, J, Duffield, TF, Leslie, KE, Walton, JS and LeBlanc, SJ 2010. Risk factors for postpartum uterine diseases in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 93, 57645771.
El-Din Zain, A, Nakao, T, Abdel Raouf, M, Moriyoshi, M, Kawata, K and Moritsu, Y 1995. Factors in the resumption of ovarian activity and uterine involution in postpartum dairy cows. Animal Reproduction Science 38, 203214.
Erb, HN and Martin, SW 1980. Interrelationships between production and reproductive diseases in holstein cows. Age and seasonal patterns. Journal of Dairy Science 63, 19181924.
Fricke, PM 2002. Scanning the future – ultrasonography as a reproductive management tool for dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 85, 19181926.
Garverick, HA 1997. Ovarian follicular cysts in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 80, 9951004.
Gautam, G, Nakao, T, Yamada, K and Yoshida, C 2010. Defining delayed resumption of ovarian activity postpartum and its impact on subsequent reproductive performance in holstein cows. Theriogenology 73, 180189.
Gilmour, A, Cullis, B, Welham, S and Thompson, R 2009. ASReml reference manual. New South Wales Agriculture, Orange Agricultural Institute, Orange, NSW, Australia.
Gröhn, YT, Hertl, JA and Harman, JL 1994. Effect of early lactation milk yield on reproductive disorders in dairy cows. American Journal of Veterinary Research 55, 15211528.
Horan, B, Faverdin, P, Delaby, L, Rath, M and Dillon, P 2006. The effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow and pasture-based system on grass intake and milk production. Animal Science 82, 435444.
Lucy, MC 2001. Reproductive loss in high-producing dairy cattle: where will it end? Journal of Dairy Science 84, 12771293.
McNatty, KP, Hudson, N, Gibb, M, Henderson, KM, Lun, S, Heath, D and Montgomery, GW 1984. Seasonal differences in ovarian activity in cows. Journal of Endocrinology 102, 189198.
Mee, JF, Buckley, F, Ryan, D and Dillon, P 2009. Pre-breeding ovaro-uterine ultrasonography and its relationship with first service pregnancy rate in seasonal-calving dairy herds. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 44, 331337.
Miglior, F, Muir, B and Van Doormaal, B 2005. Selection indices in holstein cattle of various countries. Journal of Dairy Science 88, 12551263.
Murphy, MG, Boland, MP and Roche, JF 1990. Pattern of follicular growth and resumption of ovarian activity in post-partum beef suckler cows. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 90, 523533.
Opsomer, G, Gröhn, YT, Hertl, J, Coryn, M, Deluyker, H and de Kruif, A 2000. Risk factors for post partum ovarian dysfunction in high producing dairy cows in Belgium: a field study. Theriogenology 53, 841857.
Peter, AT 2004. An update on cystic ovarian degeneration in cattle. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 39, 17.
Rhodes, F, McDougall, S, Burke, C, Verkerk, G and Macmillan, K 2003. Invited review: treatment of cows with an extended postpartum anestrous interval. Journal of Dairy Science 86, 18761894.
Roche, JF 2006. The effect of nutritional management of the dairy cow on reproductive efficiency. Animal Reproduction Science 96, 282296.
Santos, JEP, Rutigliano, HM and Filho, MFS 2009. Risk factors for resumption of postpartum estrous cycles and embryonic survival in lactating dairy cows. Animal Reproduction Science 110, 207221.
Sheldon, IM and Dobson, H 2004. Postpartum uterine health in cattle. Animal Reproduction Science 82–83, 295306.
Sheldon, IM, Williams, EJ, Miller, ANA, Nash, DM and Herath, S 2008. Uterine diseases in cattle after parturition. The Veterinary Journal 176, 115121.
Stevenson, JS, Hoffman, DP, Nichols, DA, McKee, RM and Krehbiel, CL 1997. Fertility in estrus-cycling and noncycling virgin heifers and suckled beef cows after induced ovulation. Journal of Animal Science 75, 13431350.
Wall, E, Brotherstone, S, Kearney, J, Woolliams, J and Coffey, M 2005. Impact of nonadditive genetic effects in the estimation of breeding values for fertility and correlated traits. Journal of Dairy Science 88, 376385.
Wathes, DC, Cheng, Z, Bourne, N, Taylor, VJ, Coffey, MP and Brotherstone, S 2007. Differences between primiparous and multiparous dairy cows in the inter-relationships between metabolic traits, milk yield and body condition score in the periparturient period. Domestic Animal Endocrinology 33, 203225.
Yavas, Y and Walton, J 2000. Postpartum acyclicity in suckled beef cows: a review. Theriogenology 54, 2555.
Zulu, VC and Penny, C 1998. Risk factors of cystic ovarian disease in dairy cattle. Journal of Reproduction and Development 44, 191195.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed