Economic profitability of a dairy farm is based, in part, on the calving interval of the cows. The optimal interval is 365 d. To achieve this, the cow needs to be pregnant within 85 d post partum. The first and most problematic step in this process is the determination of the optimal time for insemination, which is based on estrous behavior. The expression of estrous behavior, however, is at a low level in modern dairy herds, resulting in low detection rates and longer calving intervals. In the present study, a point scale was used to monitor postpartum, nonpregnant cows for estrous symptoms. Frequent blood samples were taken around estrus, and the cows were fit with pedometers to measure their activity. Correlations between the occurrence of symptoms of estrus and levels of estradiol and cortisol were then analyzed. Standing heat, the standard symptom of estrus, was observed in only 53␘f the cows. A high correlation of 0.7 was found between estradiol concentration and estrous behavior. This was empasized by the fact that the estradiol level reached its highest level of 7.76 2.39 (SD) pg/mL at the same time as the highest behavior score. The highest pedometer readout lagged 8 h behind this moment. Cortisol levels did not exceed the physiological levels in rest situations but showed an increase at the time estrous behavior was at its maximum. The present study showed that standing heat is not the primary symptom for detecting estrus in cows. Pedometers are a useful aid but they have to be read several times a day. The high correlation between the visual symptoms of estrus and estradiol concentrations indicates that visual estrus detection is an efficient, reliable way to determine the right time for insemination.
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