Risk factors for resumption of postpartum estrous cycles and embryonic survival in lactating dairy cows
The objectives of this study were to evaluate factors associated with resumption of postpartum estrous cycles and embryonic survival in lactating dairy cows. Holstein cows, 6396 from four dairy farms were evaluated to determine the relationships among parity, body condition score (BCS) at calving and at AI, season of year when cows calved, and milk yield on resumption of postpartum estrous cycles by 65 days postpartum, and all the previous variables, estrual or anestrus and AI protocol on conception rates and embryonic survival at the first postpartum insemination. Cows had their estrous cycle pre-synchronized with two PGF2α injections given 14 days apart and were inseminated between 69 and 82 days postpartum following either an estrous or ovulation synchronization protocol initiated 12–14 days after the presynchronization. Blood was sampled and analyzed for progesterone twice, 12–14 days apart, to determine whether cows had initiated onset of estrous cycles after calving. Cows were scored for body condition in the week after calving, and again at AI, between 69 and 82 days postpartum. Pregnancy was diagnosed at 30 ± 3 and 58 ± 3 days after AI. Farm influenced all reproductive outcomes evaluated. More (P < 0.0001) multiparous than primiparous cows had initiated estrous cycles. Onset of estrous cycles was also influenced (P < 0.01) by BCS at calving and at AI, BCS change, season, and milk yield. More (P < 0.001) cows that had initiated estrous cycles than anestrous cows were pregnant at 30 and 58 days after AI, but anestrus did not affect pregnancy loss. Conception rates were also influenced (P < 0.01) by parity, BCS at calving and AI, BCS change, and season; however, milk yield and insemination protocol were not associated with conception rates at 30 and 58 days after AI. Factors that reduced conception rate on day 30 after AI also increased pregnancy loss between 30 and 58 days of gestation. Improving BCS at calving and AI, minimizing losses of BCS after calving, and hastening onset of estrous cycles early postpartum are all expected to increase conception because of enhanced embryonic survival.