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Research J. Science and Tech.

8(2): April-June, 2016


0975-4393 (Print)
2349-2988 (Online)



Reproductive Management of Bovine in Herd: A Review

H. B. Dhamsaniya, Sanjay C. Parmar*
Anand Agricultural University, Anand, Gujarat 388 001, India
*Corresponding Author E-mail: dr.sanjayparmar@yahoo.in

A herd management is crucial for better reproduction in dairy farm animals. The major herd infertility problems are
arising from manage mental factors. Various factors affecting the reproductive process are environment, endocrine,
nutrition, heredity and infectious which lead to conditions like anoestrus, infertility, early embryonic death, abortion,
mummification, still birth and endocrine logical imbalance or reproductive abnormalities which results into poor
reproductive efficiency. Heat detection in herd made successful breeding program following correct time performing
artificial insemination. A reproductive management of herd leads to higher conception rates in animals with
optimizing the calving intervals and culling rates in herd.

KEY WORDS: Bovine, Herd Management, Heat detection, Pregnancy diagnosis, Reproduction
Factors Affecting Reproduction:
Factors affecting reproductive process are environment,
endocrine, heredity and infectious which lead to
conditions like anoestrus, infertility, fetal death,
abortion, mummification, still birth and neonatal death5.
Any endocrinological imbalance or reproductive
abnormalities which results in to poor reproductive
efficiency may lead to the higher embryonic mortality.
Repeated embryonic mortality which become prolong
the inter-calving interval. Thats why its a major
limitation to exploit production potential6.

Successful reproduction is defined as the ability of

animals to mate, capacity to conceive, to nourish the
embryos and deliver the viable young one at the end of
normal gestation period1. As the worlds population
grows, global demand of milk for human consumption
is predicted to rise by more than 50 per cent by 20502.
World milk production has increased by 27 per cent
between 1997 and 20073. Land area will be the new key
factor limiting production indicating more producers
may adopt confinement systems4. The major herd
infertility problems are those arising from manage
mental factors and which involve more than one causal
factor in this more than 85 per cent problems are
manage mental and other factors and less than 15 per
cent problems mainly or in part of mineral imbalance.

Record keeping:
The first step in establishing any form of effective
management is setting up and maintaining detailed
records for individual animals. Record keeping is one
of the most important parts of reproductive
management of the dairy herd. Accurate, simple and
complete records about the entire reproductive life of
the individual animal are required. It is important to
develop a system for collecting permanent records of
each adult cow in the herd. This facilitates extracting
data to calculate the above measures. Permanent
records should include the following information like
Cow identification number, which should also be on an

Received on 23.03.2016
Modified on 05.04.2016
Accepted on 15.04.2016 A&V Publications All right reserved
Research J. Science and Tech. 2016; 8(2):99-106
DOI: 10.5958/2349-2988.2016.00013.9


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

ear tag (preferably two tags, in case one falls off), Birth
date, Ancestry, such as dam and sire number and breed
type, may be grand dam and grand sires number and
breed type and cows breed type, Vaccination dates,
Important disease problems during rearing, Lactation
number, Dry off date of previous lactation, Calving
date, Each insemination date (this is generally the
important data that is not routinely recorded), the date
when confirmed pregnant by rectal palpation, the
estimated age of the fetus, Peak milk yield or estimated
full lactation yield and any diagnosed health problem.
Delayed puberty and sexual maturity:
Age at puberty and first conception will influence
lifetime productivity of cattle, reflected in the number
of calves7. Though puberty may be genetically
controlled yet nutrition, season and proper health
management are the critical factors governing puberty
in heifers8. The major reasons for delayed puberty and
sexual maturity are the Low plane of nutrition or
malnutrition, heavy parasitic infestations and poor care
and management at neonatal stage and onwards.
Nutrition directly affects production and reproduction
in dairy animals Milk is from the mouth of the cow.
Severe negative energy balance at early post partum
and its associated metabolic alterations have shown
major cause of reduced fertility9. Nutrient either in
deficient amount or in higher amount has been shown
to be capable of altering reproduction10.
Table.1 Effect of Negative Energy Balance (Martinez et al.11)
Negative energy balance
1. Reduced GnRH, LH, glucose, insulin
2. Mobilization of tissue reserves
3. Reduction of Body Condition Score
4. Metabolic disorders
1. Low or absent estrogens
Ovarian changes
2. Delayed or absence LH peak
1. Poor estrous signs
Clinical changes
2. Poor oocyte quality
3. Early Embryonic Death (EED)
4. Short estrous cycle
5. Impaired endometrial function
1. Low pregnancy /calving rates
2. Extended Calving Interval
3. Repeat Breeder

significantly correlated to reproductive performance in

cows. BCS and the loss of BCS are important predictors
of potential reproductive efficiency scores are done on a
1 to 5 scale. Whereas, 1 is being emaciated and 5 is
being obese cow. BCS 3.5 at calving, 2.25 to 2.75 at
peak yield, 2.5 at breeding, 3.25 at late lactation and 3.5
at Dry off. Cows which are over conditioned at dry off
with a BCS >4 more likely to experience reproductive
diseases in their next lactation than cows having BCS 3
to 3.5.
Age at First Calving (AFC):
Decreasing AFC has a positive effect on genetic
progress because the generation interval decreases14.
AFC can reduce rearing costs due to decreased feed,
labour and building costs. Reducing AFC from 25 to 24
or 21 months decreased replacement costs by 4.3 per
cent or 18 per cent respectively15.
Heat detection:
One of the most important and most time consuming
tasks in the dairy animals is the heat detection. Visual
heat detection requires more labor hours per cow and is
therefore more sensitive to increasing labor costs than a
synchronization program16. Increasing herd size reduces
estrus detection performance and satisfactory levels
cannot be achieved without technological aids17. About
10 per cent of the reasons for failure to detect heats can
be attributed to cow problems and 90% to management
problems18. Any successful breeding program in a herd
where heat detection is well done, 75 per cent of the
cows must be seen in heat at least once in 60 days
following calving. The non-observation of heat during
the 2 months following calving reveals two types of
problems, one is the cow was not in heat (true
anoestrus) and another is the detection was poor.
Approaches to estrus detection:
Tail-painting and use of chalk:
Tail chalking involves placing a mark on the cows tail
head, so that when she stands to be mounted, this mark
will be erased, or at least changed. Therefore estrus can
be diagnosed based on the absence or change to the
mark, in combination with secondary signs of heat and
farm records.

Body Condition Scores (BCS):

Body Condition Score (BCS) is an internationally
accepted subjective visual and tactile measure of body
condition and temporal changes in the BCS are used to
monitor nutritional and health status of high producing
cows during their productive cycle12. Loss of more than
2.0 units of BCS results in 21.0 percent conception
rates13. BCS at parturition or 1-2 month post partum is

Heat-mount detectors:
A heat mount detector such as the KaMaR can be used.
This consists of a soft, translucent plastic dome
attached to a rectangle of canvas in which there is
placed a soft plastic vial of red dye, which is fixed with
adhesive just cranial to the base of the tail. When a cow
is mounted and the vial subjected to sufficient pressure,
i.e. at standing estrus, the vial is compressed, the dye
escapes and the dome becomes red. False-positives can


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

occur when a cow rubbing the underside of a rail or in

crowded collecting yards when a cow that is not in
estrus cannot escape the attentions of mounting cows
activates the detector. It is important that these should
be applied using a brush against the line of the hair to
ensure good adhesion before smoothing in the direction
of the hairline. There should be regular inspection of
the paint so that repainting can be done if necessary.
Chin-ball devices:
The chin ball marker is one such aid. It is a device worn
beneath a detector animal's chin that works like a large
ball point pen, leaving a mark on the back of the cow
that has been mounted.
Use of teaser animals:
This has not been very popular largely because teaser
bulls with good libido present a major safety hazard
when allowed to run loose with the herd. Furthermore,
where venereal diseases are present they represent a
major health hazard because of their ability to transmit
such diseases.
Vaginal probes:
The electrical resistance (ER) of vaginal fluids
decreases during proestrus and through the estrus
period as a result of chemical changes in the vagina as
the cow approaches the time of breeding. Several
probes that measure the ER of vaginal fluids are now
commercially available. Monitoring the relative
changes within cows during the estrous cycle can
provide the herder with additional information and can
serve as a heat detection aid if cattle are probed
During estrus the cow shows greater movement and
activity. One method that has been used to identify this
is the attachment of pedometers to the individual
animals. Since then a number of devices have been
made to record the frequency of movement; as yet their
reliability is not good and they are expensive. With the
rapid developments that are occurring in electronics, it
is likely that some simple, inexpensive and reliable
instrument will be developed.

The ability of cervical mucus to be drawn in to thread
or to stretch to form threads when drawn apart. Cows
that had spinnbarkeit value of 11 cm or below did not
Use of milk progesterone assays:
The return to estrus in non-pregnant cows can be
anticipated by the measurement of progesterone
concentrations in sequential milk samples.
Cow activity changes:
When the cow is in estrus during that time activity of
cow is change like Bellowing, reduced feed intake,
restlessness and nervous, frequent micturation, etc.
Use of closed circuit television:
Television cameras, recorders and monitors are now
much cheaper and more reliable than before. During the
night, provided that there is adequate lighting and good
animal identification, a continuous video recording can
be made of the loafing areas of the yard where cows are
housed. The herds man can then rapidly scan the
recording in the morning and identify cows that are in
Use of dogs:
Dogs can be trained to detect odors associated with
estrus in cows. The sources of the odors are widespread
throughout the genital tract and also appear in milk and
Timing of AI:
The best time to breed the cow is in the middle or end
of standing heat. With good heat detection, follow these
guidelines when breeding your animals. A cow first
observed in standing heat in the morning should be bred
the afternoon of the same day. A cow first observed in
standing heat in the afternoon or evening should be
bred the following morning. First insemination is an
extremely important control point in reproductive
management. There are significant effects of
insemination site and inseminator on conception rate.


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

Fig. 1 Optimum Timing for Artificial Insemination

Conception rate:
The conception rate (CR) is the percentage of
inseminations that are successful and result in
pregnancy. Herds can have high conception rates but
poor 100 day-in-calf and high 200 day-not-in-calf rates.
100 day-in-calf rate, this calculates the percentage of
the cows in the herd that become pregnant by 100 days
after calving. It also describes how many cows will
calve within 12 to 13 months of their previous calving.
200 day-not-in-calf rate, this calculates the percentage
of cows not pregnant by 200 days after calving. Many
cows not calved more than 15 to 16 months after their
previous calving.
Early Embryonic Mortality (EED):
Embryonic mortality is classified as Very Early
Embryonic Mortality (day 0-7), Early Embryonic
Mortality (day 7-24), Late Embryonic Mortality and
early Fetal mortality (days 24-285)19. Mortality is more
common during early than the late embryonic period,
i.e., from day 8th to 16th at the hatching of blastocyst
and initiation of elongation and commencement of
implantation20. About 80 per cent of this loss occurs
before days 16 to 17; nearly 10-15 per cent between
days 17 to 42 and 5 per cent after 42 days.
Genetic factors:
Genetic abnormalities account for approximately 10 per
cent of the embryonic losses and generally result in
pregnancy failure within the first two weeks.
Expression of lethal genes can cause death of the
embryo within the first 5 days of pregnancy. Another
genotypic factor contributing to embryonic death is an
abnormal chromosome number in some or all of the
embryonic cells that results in abnormal growth of the
embryo, and usually death within the first trimester of
Endocrine factors:
Failure of release of LH results in delayed ovulation.
Since there is delay, the sperm cells have become
poorly viable as they do in the cow within 24 to 48
hours and because of the aged conditions of the sperm

cells, early embryonic death may result. Injections of

estrogen at the time of estrum or within several days
after ovulation will affect the transport of the fertilized
ova in the oviduct resulting in too rapid transport or
tubal locking of the ova and death of the zygote. A
decreased level of progesterone also results in EEM.
There are two major reasons for a lack of progesterone.
Corpora Lutea (CL) has a short lifespan (6-12 days).
Thus, luteolysis occurs before the embryo has time to
signal its presence through secreting bTP-1. The second
category includes those CLs that have a normal lifespan
(more than 14 days) but secrete low levels of
progesterone, which does not suppress the luteolytic
affects of the prostaglandin.
Nutritional factors:
Effects of Energy and Protein: Dietary energy and
protein levels play a role in pregnancy success. Cows
will have less embryonic mortality if they are gaining
condition, while those losing condition will tend to
have higher embryonic loss. Excesses of protein: Crude
protein in the total diet greater than 17 to 20 per cent
has been implicated in lowering conception rates with
increases seen in the number of services per conception
and days open.
Immunological factor:
If the mechanism of immunosuppression is not going
well, then the antibodies will interfere with the
development of the embryo in the uterus. The fetoplacental unit can be considered as a foreign body in the
uterus, paternal antigens are normally not rejected by
the maternal immune system. Therefore, the immune
system is involved in the successful outcome of the
pregnancy by creating conditions that prevent rejection
of the conceptus.
Temperature or heat stress:
Cows exposed to heat stress from day 8 to 16 after
breeding had decreased progesterone concentration and
increased uterine prostaglandin secretion.


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

Genital infections:
Infection of the embryonic environment can be caused
by specific and non-specific uterine pathogens. Specific
uterine infections are caused by a number of viruses,
bacteria and protozoa that enter the uterus by the
haematogenous route or via the vagina. Non-specific
pathogens are mainly bacteria that enter the uterus by
ascending infection. Uterine pathogens may cause EM
by changing the uterine environment (endometritis) or
by a direct cytolytic effect on the embryo.
Uterine environment:
After fertilization, embryos cleave at different rates,
sometimes causing the maturity of the embryo to differ
from that of the uterus. The uterine environment may be
toxic to these embryos that are out of phase, resulting in
the death of the embryo. Maternal recognition occurs
around days 15 to 17 of pregnancy.
Effect of palpation:
Generally, rectal palpation does not affect the
survivability of embryos if palpated gently. Palpation
between days 34 and 41 of pregnancy using the fetal
membrane slip technique did not affect embryo or fetal
Other possible factors:
Age: Heifers are generally considered to have higher
pregnancy rates, and this increase seems to be
associated with less embryonic mortality than cows.
Older cows nearing the end of their reproductive life
will also have an increase in embryonic mortality.
Among dairy cattle, both early and late embryonic
losses increased among cows with increasing age.
Breed: Little difference in embryonic mortality across
breeds has been shown. Cattle are line-bred or inbred
have been noted to have an increased rate of embryo
Early pregnancy diagnosis:
Identification of early pregnancy factor (3 days after
Identification of early pregnancy factor/early
conception factor early pregnancy factor (EPF) is an
immunosuppressive glycoprotein associated with
pregnancy. Commercially available test kits are
available which use the dip-stick principle and can
detect early conception factor (ECF) in serum and milk
from as early as 3 days after artificial insemination,
although more accurate results are obtained if samples
are taken later at 7 to 8 days. USG (12-20 Days): There
are different types of machines available. The most
commonly used machines today are B-mode real-time,
meaning that they produce an acoustic image in real
time. They usually range from 3.5 to 7.5 MHz with

greater MHz you see more detail but have less depth
penetration that they produce an acoustic image in real
This test is performed generally 3 hrs prior to the
evening milking in dairy cows (18 to 22 days after
insemination). Place the teat cannula in the left fore-teat
and leave it for milk flow from teat cistern. When the
milk flow ceases, a small dose (2.5 mg or 0.5 ml) of
Dinoprost (LutaIyse) is administered intravenously
through ear vein. If the corpus luteum of pregnancy is
present, alveolar milk starts to flow about one minute
later. Principle behind use of PGF2 in non-luteolytic
dose induces the release of oxytocin from the corpus
luteum which causes let-down of milk in the lactating
and pregnant cows.
Assay of pregnancy specific protein B (24 days of
This protein has been identified in the maternal serum
of cows from 24 days of gestation the concentration is
measured by radio-immunoassay It is secreted by the
binucleate cells of the trophoblastic ectoderm and thus
its presence can be used to confirm pregnancy. At
present, it can only be measured by radioimmunoassay
(RIA) but, with the development of suitable enzymelinked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods also
Progesterone concentration in plasma and milk (21
Since the CL persists as a result of the pregnancy, if a
blood sample is taken at about 21 days after the
previous estrus, progesterone levels remain elevated. If
the cow is not pregnant and is close to or at estrus then
the progesterone levels will be low although this is a
perfectly valid and reliable laboratory method, it has the
one disadvantage that it requires the collection of a
blood sample. Progesterone crossed the mammary
gland and appeared in milk and progesterone is very
soluble in milk fat there were higher concentrations per
unit volume in milk than in the blood or plasma.
Calving Interval:
Calving Interval can be divided in to voluntary waiting
period, interval from end of to voluntary waiting period,
interval to 1st AI (service period) and interval from 1st
AI to conception and gestation period .


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

A calf per cow per year:

The constraint of a 365 day inter-calving interval
requires that cows must resume cyclicity, display
estrous behavior, and be mated to conceive successfully
during a mating period beginning 83 days after a
designated planned start of calving irrespective of time
postpartum. Reproductive efficiency can be improved
by Shortening Post-partum interval increasing
Submission Rates and increasing conception Rates.
Voluntary waiting period:
The voluntary waiting period is the standard postpartum
interval in which cows are not inseminated with the
ultimate goal of avoiding breeding at a time in which
fertility is poor because of uterine regression and
clearance, recovery to a favorable nutrient balance, and
resumption of estrous cyclicity. Cows inseminated very
early postpartum typically have depressed fertility21. 75
per cent of all dairy herds have a voluntary waiting
period that ranges between 41 and 60 days
Repeat breeding:
Repeat breeder animal is usually defined as sub-fertile
animal which is mated three or more times during the
proper period and does not become pregnant and
continually return to service in the absence of any
obvious pathological disorder in the genital tract and
normal estrus cycles23. Incidence of typical RB ranges
from as low as 1.51 per cent to as high as 35 per cent
amongst Indian cattle and in buffaloes ranges from 0.61
to 29.80 per cent24.
Subestrus and Silent estrus:
A condition in which the genital organs are undergoing
normal cyclical changes and ovulation do occur as
confirmed by progesterone profile and per rectal
examination but overt or behavioural signs of estrus are
either not manifested or too weak to be observed25.
Silent estrus is common during post pubertal period in
heifers and early postpartum in cows. Incidence of
silent estrus in cattle is 21.38 per cent and 27.32 per
cent in buffaloes.

Lameness is associated with increased number of
services per conception and consequently lower
conception rates to first service26. Cows that were lame
within 30 days post calving were also 2.63 times more
likely to develop ovarian cysts. The histamine and
endotoxins released during the decline of ruminal pH in
animals suffering rumen acidosis act indirectly to
destroy the microvasculature of the corium causing
laminitis. These substances can also potentiate their
affects at the neuroen docrine and ovarian level and
compromise the LH surge system Secondly, stress
induced hormones may alter the GnRH and/or LH surge
system. Finally, the degree of NEB may be greater in
lame cows and hence affect the somatotropic axis.
Lameness could reduce estrus intensity by reducing
progesterone concentrations before estrus without
affecting estradiol or cortisol milk profiles27.
Heat stress:
Among all environmental stressors, the temperature and
relative humidity are the major factors, which affect the
reproductive performance of dairy cows. Incidence of
Lowest Conception rate, longer calving to conception
and calving intervals are more during summer months.
Percentage of abortion and retained placenta were
highest for cows calving during summer. Fertility of
dairy animals is markedly declined during summer
season28. Heat stress can act in more than one way to
reduce fertility in lactating dairy cows. Heat Stress can
reduce dry matter intake to indirectly inhibit GnRH and
LH secretion from the hypothalamo-pituitary system.
However, it is not clear if heat stress can also directly
inuence the hypothalamo-pituitary system to reduce
GnRH and LH secretion. Heat stress can directly
compromise the uterine environment to cause embryo
loss and infertility.
Culling rate:
Cow replacement is a major cost of dairy production29.
Parity and stage of lactation affect the economic losses
of a culled cow30. Failure to conceive is a major reason
for cows are culled31. The risk of culling is increased
with parity. Hazard ratios of cows leaving the herd were
1, 1.51, 2.14, 2.68, 3.11, and 3.46 for parities 1 to 6,
respectively cows having single male calves had a 5 to
7 per cent greater hazard of culling than cows having
single female calves cows having twins had a 23 to 46
per cent greater hazard of culling.


Research J. Science and Tech. 8(2): April-June, 2016

Table.2 Herd Average for Cattle and Buffalo (Walsh et al.19)
Age at first estrus
12-18 months
Age at first breeding
14-15 months
Age at first calving
24-25 months
Interval to first postpartum observed estrus
Less than 50 days
Days to first service
Average 75 days
Days open
95-100 days
Calving interval
12-13 months
First service conception rate
50 % or greater
Services per conception
Less than 1.7
Percent heats observed (Efficiency)
Greater than 70 %
Retained placenta
Less than 10 %
Cystic ovaries
Less than 10 %
Metritis (Uterine infection)
Less than 10 %
Less than 8 % of the herd or less than 25 %
Reproductive cull rate
of the animals those were culled.

Future Prospect and conclusions:

Mainly focus on early postpartum period, minimizing
duration and degree of NEB and resolving uterine
infection. Detection of estrus is proper and following
AI must be at correct time. Future efforts to improve
fertility in dairy cows needs to focus on genetic and
management solutions to improve the physiological
events associated with the establishment of pregnancy.
From a practical point of view, however, maintaining
an optimum level of reproductive efficiency is largely a
matter of matching the genotypes to the available
resources and appropriate management strategies to
allow the animals to express their full reproductive






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