12 September 1997

Oestrus observation may soon be thing of the past

Calls for on-line milk progesterone testing, progeny testing of bulls for fertility, and abattoir-based DIY AI training were to the fore at last weeks Nottingham Cattle Fertility Conference, held with the British Cattle Veterinary Association, at Sutton Bonington. Sue Rider reports

TIME spent trying to detect oestrus in dairy cows will soon become a thing of the past, according to a leading fertility researcher.

Speaking at the Nottingham Cattle Fertility conference, Eric Lamming said he could not see any way to address failure to observe oestrus, the problem was too great. "Farmers havent a cat in hells chance of improving oestrus detection," he said. "Ovulation monitoring is what the industry now needs."

Prof Lamming said that on-line milk progesterone monitoring with the relevant computer software programmes would greatly assist fertility management of dairy herds.

"Such a computer would automatically alert the herdsperson as to when the cow was ovulating."

His concern centred on bigger herd sizes, higher milk yields, less time for observation, and the increase in the number of animals which, despite cycling normally, failed to show heat.

"We are moving to a situation where dairy herds are becoming larger, so it is more difficult to manage them. We need better fertility tools to help the herdsperson in this position."

Prof Lamming said the on-line technology could be available within five years. But, first, more accurate sensors had to be developed to measure changes in progesterone in the milk.

Eric Lamming… Oestrus detection will become a thing of the past.

Conference pointers

&#8226 We must identify heritable traits associated with high fertility and include these in a new multi-trait breeding index to stem the national decline in dairy cow fertility (see Livestock, Breeding and Fertility Special, Aug 22).

&#8226 Breed replacements from most fertile cows; others to beef.

&#8226 On-line milk progesterone monitoring system with relevant computer software programmes to alert herdsperson when cow is ovulating and ready for AI will greatly assist fertility management of dairy herds.

&#8226 Abattoir-based DIY AI training is more successful than on-farm training – for every days abattoir training, conception rates rose by 3.7%. Over compulsory five days training the improved calving rate would be worth £4760 after first year of inseminations.

&#8226 Using three milk progesterone tests it should be possible to detect 80% of returns to service – national average is 50%.

&#8226 Just two milk progesterone samples taken five days apart are all that is needed to check that AI timing is correct.