Expression of estrus improves fertility and decreases pregnancy losses in lactating dairy cows that receive artificial insemination or embryo transfer

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The objective was to evaluate if expression of estrus by dairy cattle altered fertility in timed artificial insemination (AI; n = 5,430) or timed embryo transfer (ET; n = 2,003) programs that used estradiol and progesterone (P4) to synchronize ovulation. Ovarian ultrasonography was performed on d 0 (time of AI) and 7 to determine ovulatory follicle diameter and ovulation. Only cows with a visible corpus luteum on d 7 were used in this study. At the time of controlled internal drug release removal, all cows received a tail-head device for detection of estrus and were considered in estrus when the paint of the device was completely removed by d 0. Circulating P4 concentrations were evaluated on d 7. Pregnancies per AI (P/AI) or ET (P/ET) were determined by ultrasonography on d 32 and 60. At d-32 pregnancy diagnosis, cows with expression of estrus had increased P/AI [no estrus = 25.5% (222/846) vs. estrus = 38.9% (1,785/4,584)] and P/ET [no estrus = 32.7% (193/606) vs. estrus = 46.2% (645/1,397)]. Similarly, at d-60 pregnancy diagnosis, expression of estrus increased P/AI [no estrus = 20.1% (179/846) vs. estrus = 33.3% (1,530/4,584)] and P/ET [no estrus = 25.1% (150/606) vs. estrus = 37.5% (525/1,397)]. Pregnancy loss was lower in cows that expressed estrus in timed AI [TAI; no estrus = 20.1% (43/222) vs. estrus 14.4% (255/1,785)] and timed ET [TET; no estrus = 22.7% (43/193) vs. estrus = 18.6% (120/645)] compared with cows with no estrus. Independent of expression of estrus cows ovulating either too small or too large of follicles had lower P/AI. No effect of ovulatory follicle diameter on P/ET was noted in cows that expressed estrus; although, cows that did not express estrus tended to have lower P/ET if they ovulated larger follicles. In cows that showed estrus, follicle diameter did not affect pregnancy loss, but cows that did not show estrus and ovulated larger follicles tended to have greater pregnancy loss after TAI and had greater pregnancy loss on TET. A positive effect of d-7 P4 concentrations on P/AI was observed, independent of estrus. In contrast, no effect of P4 was found on d 7 on P/ET. Thus, expression of estrus during protocols for TAI or TET is associated with an increase in fertility and reduction in pregnancy loss. During TAI programs, optimizing follicle diameter and increasing circulating P4 on d 7 after AI were also associated with increased fertility, independent of expression of estrus. However, in cows with TET, the association of fertility with either ovulatory follicle diameter or P4 on d 7 was less dramatic and seemed to be related to whether cows expressed estrus.




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Journal of Dairy Science, v. 99, n. 3, p. 2237-2247, 2016.

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