Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Florida have been investigating if there is a way to estimate heritability and genetic variances for two critical components of reproductive performance — anovulation and pregnancy loss occurring between first and second pregnancy checks after artificial insemination.

It seems as though they may be onto something.

A study published in the November Journal of Dairy Science indicates that genetically, the embryo’s ability to survive seems to have a substantially greater effect on pregnancy loss than does the cow’s ability to maintain the pregnancy. The researchers also discovered that the heritability for anovulation at around 50 days in milk was 0.17

Therefore, they conclude that genetic selection could contribute to decreasing the incidence of both of these problems and improving reproductive performance by selecting for fundamental measures like abnormally long periods of postpartum anovulation and pregnancy loss.

But before you get too excited, the scientists also say that larger studies of the traits are needed to get parameter estimates with greater precision.