“While producers rely on records and metrics to evaluate their reproduction program, many factors—like nutrition, environment and health—directly contribute to an animal’s ability to conceive and maintain pregnancy,” says Joel Pankowski, manager, field technical services with Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition.
Reproductive performance-robbing challenges like metritis remain a real issue for many dairies since incidence can be as high as 20 percent in some herds. Metritis carries significant economic consequences since each case can cost dairy producers as much as $354.1
Dairies committed to reproductive excellence know nutrition is a key driver of reproductive success. A sound nutrition program helps promote a healthy uterus during and after calving and enables cows to perform at their best, Pankowski says.
Recent research at the University of British Columbia shows that dairy cow feeding behavior during the early transition period is an indicator of metritis risk.2 Cows that developed metritis had lower dry matter intake (DMI) as early as two weeks prior to calving—or approximately three weeks before clinical signs of metritis. The researchers also found the incidence of metritis led to decreased production and 3.8-times greater culling risk.
“One proven tool to promote uterine health and greater immune function is a proactive nutrition approach through proper pre- and postpartum ration formulation with both Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) for a better transition,” Pankowski explains.
University research3 showed feeding Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs in combination resulted in:
- A 66% reduction in cases of endometritis in the treatment group (19%) when compared to the control (56%). The study also showed fewer clinical metritis cases.
- Resumed cyclicity earlier with more ovulatory cycles by 60 days in milk.
- Fewer days to first service, services per conception and days open.
To ensure success, make transition management a priority. For instance:
- Keep pen moves to a minimum and avoid overcrowding.
- Watch DMI closely as diseases like metritis increase as DMI drops.
- Record major health incidents. Detect and treat problems early; prevention is best.
- Screen cows appropriately and set a herd baseline to monitor when disease incidence gets out of line.
Finally, set a foundation for better reproductive health with both Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs. “Work with your nutritionist to properly incorporate these EFAs into your rations,” Pankowski says. “Increase your commitment to enhancing reproductive performance through better nutrition.”
1 Overton M, Fetrow J. Economics of Postpartum Uterine Health, in Proceedings. 3rd Annual Dairy Cattle Reproduction Conference 2008;39-43.
2 University of British Columbia, Research Reports: Effect of metritis on intake, milk yield and culling risk. Vol. 12, No 1. Available at: http://www.landfood.ubc.ca/dairycentre/sites/www.landfood.ubc.ca.dairycentre/files/files/Research_Vol12-1.pdf Accessed April 6, 2012.
3 Bowen AJ. The Effects of Dietary Linoleic and Linolenic Acids on Reproductive Performance in Holstein Cows. [Master’s thesis]. Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona; 2008.