Comparison of Embryo Quality in High-Yielding Dairy Cows, in Dairy Heifers and in Beef Cows

Theriogenology. 2005 Dec;64(9):2022-36. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2005.05.003. Epub 2005 Jun 3.


The purpose of this study was to compare embryo quality of lactating Holstein Friesian cows (LHFC), non-lactating Holstein Friesian heifers (NLHFH) and Belgian Blue beef cows (BB) and to identify factors that are associated with embryo quality in LHFC and NLHFH. After superovulation and embryo recovery at Day 7, embryos (n=727 from 47 LHFC, 27 NLHFH and 50 BB) were scored morphologically for quality, colour and developmental stage. Blood samples and data concerning parity, age, milk production and management were collected. Data were compared univariably between the three groups. A multivariable regression model was built with quality and colour of the LHFC and NLHFH embryos as dependent variables. Only 13.1% of LHFC embryos were categorized as excellent compared to 62.5% and 55.0% of the embryos in NLHFH and BB, respectively. Almost none of the NLHFH or BB embryos displayed a dark appearance of the cytoplasm compared to 24.1% of the LHFC embryos. Only 4% of all LHFC embryos reached blastocyst stage compared to 23.2% and 17.3% in NLHFH and BB. Based on the multivariable regression analysis, "physiological status" (lactating or not) together with the serum total protein concentration of LHFC and NLHFH, was significantly associated with embryo quality and colour. Thus, LHFC display an inferior embryo quality compared to NLHFH and BB. Producing milk or not seems to be significantly associated with embryo quality. Therefore, reduced embryo quality on Day 7 following AI, could be an important factor in the subfertility problem in modern high-yielding dairy cows.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / embryology*
  • Color
  • Dairying
  • Embryo Transfer / veterinary
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Lactation*
  • Logistic Models
  • Meat
  • Pregnancy
  • Species Specificity
  • Superovulation
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / veterinary