Herd monitoring to optimise fertility in the dairy cow: making the most of herd records, metabolic profiling and ultrasonography (research into practice)

Animal. 2014 May;8 Suppl 1:185-98. doi: 10.1017/S1751731114000597. Epub 2014 Apr 8.


Fertility performance is intrinsically linked to the quality of the animal environment, overall management and nutrition. This review describes the use of dairy herd records, metabolic profiles and ultrasonographic findings at veterinary fertility examinations to monitor and manage dairy herd fertility. After calving, a cow has to overcome a series of physiological hurdles before establishing a pregnancy. The selection of timely key performance indicators (KPIs) that monitor specific events in the postpartum and service periods is vital to correctly identify problems and their potential causes that hopefully can be rectified. Cumulative sum charts are the timeliest monitors of efficiency of detection of oestrus, insemination outcome and relationship between postpartum events and fertility, with the point of inflection indicating when a change took place. Other KPIs use data from specific cohorts, adding an inherent delay to when change is indicated. Metabolic profiles and milk constituent data allow monitoring of nutritional adequacy and developments to offer new possibilities of on-farm systems for regular measurements of milk constituents (including progesterone) and energy status. Examination of the reproductive tract can be used to indicate individual and herd fertility status but the currently available detail is under used. Recent advances in ultrasonography can improve the diagnosis of reproductive tract pathophysiology still further but the clinical use of these methods in veterinary practice needs further evaluation. Development of new KPIs to exploit research findings are needed to ensure this knowledge is used to improve on-farm performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Dairying
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Metabolome
  • Pregnancy
  • Records / veterinary
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography / veterinary