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High yelding dairy cows: to produce or to reproduce and what practitioners should know about this to help their clients

Keywords: dairy cow , milk production , reproductive disorders , management

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Abstract:

The present article aims to ‘translate’ the current – mostly theoretical – knowledge on fertility disorders in modern high yielding dairy cows, towards the actual situation in the stable with a main emphasis on the resumption of the ovarian activity after calving. While some detailed research has recently been done at our department to elucidate the association between a high level of milk production and the reproductive performance of the current dairy cow, the next challenge is to ‘translate’ this knowledge into practice and to offer possibilities and strategies to minimize the effects of the decrease in fertility. As the negative energy balance and general health status after calving are known to be paramount factors hampering fertility, it is apparent that avoiding both is among the most important preventive measures to be taken. Improvement of the energy status by achieving a high dry matter intake and the provision of optimal and well balanced nutrition during the transition period as well as during early lactation are key goals in this effort. To achieve these goals, we should not only calculate the rations on paper, but should also check in the stable to determine whether the calculated amount is really being consumed by the cows. Furthermore, veterinarians should use their ‘clinical eyes’ as well as other diagnostic tools to assess the general health status of the cows and to assess at which aspect of the process things are going wrong and need to be adjusted. Besides the control of the negative energy balance and health status, other management factors that need to be maximized include heat detection, cow comfort, insemination technique, time of insemination during estrus and sperm quality. Only if management is on a very high level can high milk production and good fertility be a feasible combination!

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