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Nutritional influences on dairy cow fertility - LS3306

Subfertility in dairy cows is now one of the most important problems facing the UK dairy industry. Calving rate to first service averages 40%. Work at Nottingham has demonstrated that it has declined at about 0.75-1% per annum over the past 25 years, while milk yield has almost doubled. Reduced fertility therefore has major implications for the economic sustainability of individual dairy herds and the economic competitiveness of the national herd, which is approaching the point where it is not sustainable. The aim of this work is to identify the means of counteracting this decline in UK dairy cattle fertility. Indeed an improvement in conception rates of approximately 10% per year would benefit the UK industry by ~£300 million per annum. The longer-term strategy would include both a nutritional approach and a genetic approach, since phenotype reflects an interaction between environment and genotype. The objective of this work is to determine the specific nutrients that have direct effects on the reproductive system, namely follicle growth, oocyte quality and embryo survival, in dairy cattle. This will then enable us to formulate diets for improved reproduction, rather than just for increased milk production. These improved diets should ensure that the appropriate patterns and levels of gene expression required to sustain the key homeorhetic processes are present, thereby resulting in increased conception rates and hence reversing the current decline in dairy cow fertility. The experimental approach involves feeding cattle on diets that are precisely formulated to alter key metabolic factors known to influence reproduction, monitoring follicular changes in these cattle by ultrasound scanning and using tissue samples from them for in vitro culture of oocytes and blastocysts.
This work is central to the challenge of improving the efficiency and welfare of the UK dairy industry, through a more scientific approach to nutrition. The overall objective is to move from empiricism to prediction by determining the principles underlying the dietary effects on fertility. This will result in a reversal of the current decline in fertility in UK dairy cows.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Nutritional influences on dairy cow fertility   (1434k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2001

To: 2006

Cost: £1,933,386
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Nottingham
Climate Change              
Livestock Farming              
Peer Review              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study