Symposium review: The choice and collection of new relevant phenotypes for fertility selection

A. Fleming*, C.F. Baes, Audrey Martin, T.C.S. Chud, F. Malchiodi, Luiz F. Brito, F. Miglior

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In dairy production, high fertility contributes to herd profitability by achieving greater production and maintaining short calving intervals. Improved management practices and genetic selection have contributed to reversing negative trends in dairy cow fertility, but further progress is still required. Phenotypes included in current genetic evaluations are largely interval and binary traits calculated from insemination and calving date records. Several indicator traits such as calving, health, variation in body condition score, and longevity traits also apply to genetic improvement of fertility. Several fertility traits are included in the selection indices of many countries, but for improved selection, the development of novel phenotypes that more closely describe the physiology of reproduction and limit management bias could be more effective. Progesterone-based phenotypes can be determined from milk samples to describe the heritable interval from calving to corpus luteum activity, as well as additional measures of cow cyclicity. A fundamental component of artificial insemination practices is the observation of estrus. Novel phenotypes collected on estrous activity could be used to select for cows clearly displaying heat, as those cows are more likely to be inseminated at the right time and therefore have greater fertility performance. On-farm technologies, including in-line milk testing and activity monitors, may allow for phenotyping novel traits on large numbers of animals. Additionally, selection for improved fertility using traditional traits could benefit from refined and accurate recording and implementation of parameters such as pregnancy confirmation and reproductive management strategy, to differentiate embryonic or fetal loss, and to ensure selection for reproductive capability without producer intervention. Opportunities exist to achieve genetic improvement of reproductive efficiency in cattle using novel phenotypes, which is required for long-term sustainability of the dairy cattle population and industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3722-3734
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

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