Evaluation of pre-breeding reproductive tract scoring as a predictor of long term reproductive performance in beef heifers

D E Holm, M Nielen, R Jorritsma, P C Irons, P N Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    In a 7-year longitudinal study 292 Bovelder beef cows in a restricted breeding system in South Africa were observed from 1 to 2 days before their first breeding season, when reproductive tract scoring (RTS, scored from 1 to 5) was performed, until weaning their 5th calves. The objective was to determine whether pre-breeding RTS in heifers is a valid tool to predict long-term reproductive performance. Outcomes measured were failure to show oestrus during the first 24 days of the first 50-day AI season (24-day anoestrus), failure to become pregnant during each yearly artificial insemination (AI) season (reproductive failure), number of days from the start of each AI season to calving, and number of years to reproductive failure. The effect of RTS on each outcome was adjusted for year of birth, pre-breeding age, BW and body condition score (BCS), and for 24-day anoestrus, bull, gestation length, previous days to calving and previous cow efficiency index, the latter two in the case of the 2nd to the 5th calving season. During their first breeding season, heifers with RTS 1 and 2 combined were more likely to be in anoestrus for the first 24 days (OR=3.0, 95% CI 1.5, 6.4, P=0.003), and were also more likely to fail to become pregnant even after adjusting for 24-day anoestrus (OR=2.1, 95% CI 1.1, 3.9, P=0.025), compared to those with RTS 4 and 5 combined. Animals with RTS 1 and 2 combined were at increased risk of early reproductive failure compared to those with RTS 4 and 5 combined (HR=1.4, 95% CI 1.0, 1.9, P=0.045) although RTS was not associated with calving rate or days to calving after the second calving season. Low RTS at a threshold of 1 had consistent specificity of ≥94% for both 24-day anoestrus and pregnancy failure, however its predictive value was lower in the age cohort with a higher prevalence of anoestrus. We conclude that RTS is a valid management tool for culling decisions intended to improve long-term reproductive success in a seasonal breeding system, by excluding heifers that are likely to fail to become pregnant or likely to calve late during their first calving season.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-63
    Number of pages8
    JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
    Volume118
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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