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Jan Hulsen


Fertility is a management issue. It’s not just a matter of giving the cows such and such. Good fertility results from processes such as dry period, d, calving, lactation, heat observation and insemination.

Fertility A practical guide for fertility management

Which is why Fertility is geared to the dairy farmer as a manager. The e book encourages you to look at the daily routine on the dairy farm with a manager’s eye, and helps you to improve your processes. It’s a lot easier to get cows in calf, for example, if your pyometra rate is under 10% and your milk fever rate under 7%. And your performance will benefit if you understand why Australia and the USA use different key figures to measure fertility than the UK and Europe. But successful management in turn depends on carrying out your day-toy-today work properly. Fertility is full of practical information and tips that can be put to use straight away on every dairy farm and covers technical areas such as insemination and calving assistance. Fertility encourages you to think and act two pregnancies ahead. Fertility is one of the CowSIGNALS® series. CowSIGNALS® : highly practical, reader-friendly information on animal-oriented cattle farming.

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Advanced Fertility Management




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“Fertility encourages you to think two pregnancies ahead.”

Jan Hulsen

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A practical guide for fertility management

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Fertility Author Jan Hulsen, Vetvice® Photography Jan Hulsen (unless stated otherwise) Anneke Hallebeek (p. 13, 33, 35, 43) Marcel Christianen (p. 25) Graphics Marleen Felius (p. 4, 13, 17, 21, 32, 36, 38, 41) Dick Rietveld (p. 7, 14, 20, 22, 27, 31)

And thanks to Joep Driessen, Marcel Drint, Frido Hamoen, Henk Hogeveen, Joost Klop, Adri Maas, Toon Meesters, Adri Peeters, Jeroen Peeters, Kees Peeters, Annelies Pernot, Maarten Pietersen, QMPS/ Cornell University, Alfons van Ranst, Jack Rodenburg, Roel Roelofs, Ad Rijvers, Kees Simons, René de Theije, Bill Tranter, UGCN, Jansje van Veersen, Sietse Venema, Peter Vercauteren, Peter Vos, Bertjan Westerlaan and Dirk Zaaijer. And the many cattle farmers and others who in some way contributed their inspiration, knowledge, help or advice.

Design Erik de Bruin, Varwig Design

For books and customized editions:

Roodbont Publishers P.O. Box 4103 NL-7200 BC Zutphen The Netherlands Telephone: +31 (0) 575 54 56 88 Fax: +31 (0) 575 54 69 90 Roodbont Publishers is part of Tirion Uitgevers.

For presentations and on-farm training sessions:

Translator Sue Stewart, Stewart Translations With the collaboration of Dick de Lange

Vetvice BV® Moerstraatsebaan 115

Content editor Owen Atkinson

NL-4614 PC Bergen op Zoom The Netherlands Telephone: +31 (0) 165 30 43 05

Critical reading of manuscript Paul Hulsen Dick de Lange Nico Vreeburg

© Jan Hulsen, December 2007 2nd edition September 2008

No part of this book may be reproduced and/or

Fertility is part of the CowSIGNALS® series,

published by printing, photocopying or any other

together with Cow Signals, Hooves,

means, without prior permission in writing from

From calf to heifer and Udder Health.

the publisher.

CowSIGNALS® is a registered trademark of

The authors and publisher have made every effort


to ensure the accuracy and completeness of information contained in this book. However, we

More information about CowSIGNALS®:

assume no responsibility for damage, of any kind

whatsoever, resulting from actions and/or decisions that are based on this information.

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Pfizer Animal Health


A calf every year


1 Cleansing and coming into heat


3 Getting and staying in calf




Many embryos are lost


Success factors during transition


Less stress, less embryo loss


Introducing heifers




Organising calving


Pregnancy diagnosis


Calving assistance


Not in calf: now what?


The newly calved cow


Learning more about the pregnancy


The afterbirth


Embryo transfer and OPU


Housing and management


The bull


Monitoring the reproductive tract




2 Heat observation


4 Targets, performance indicators,

Success factors during heat observation


process management


Using aids




Heat signals


Process management


Oestrus cycle and cycle signals


Key figures and breeding


Time of insemination


How cattle farmers in other countries do it 40



Inducing heat and hormone programmes


Insemination technique




Standard procedures




Insemination and organisation





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Pfizer, your partner in cow fertility – and beyond! Fertility is the main challenge facing today’s dairy farmer. We hope that this practical guide, offered to you by Pfizer Animal Health, will help you to identify and counter the pitfalls linked to fertility. Together with your veterinary consultant, Pfizer is at your side to help improve not only the fertility, but also the overall health and welfare of your dairy cows. By proposing a wide range of effective products and by actively supporting the knowledge base in the field of cattle health, Pfizer is at your side for optimal cow reproduction – and production.

Exchange and dissemination of knowledge One example is the Pfizer cattle fertility website, part of the overall Pfizer Animal Health internet portal, which was launched recently. A short presentation is given on the following page.

Anot Another example of Pfizer’s activities is the regular organisation of “consensus conferences”, wh where veterinary scientists from all over Europe discuss the latest available knowledge with a g group of veterinary dairy practitioners, exchanging scientific updates and feedback from the field. These meetings also allow the experts to compare and fine-tune their findings so that a single, consensual “message” can be formulated and disseminated to the professionals in the field. In 2007 the theme of the meeting was postpartum metritis, of which you will find a summary in the following pages. We hope that this guide will stimulate and motivate you to see fertility in a new light.



Your Pfizer Animal Health team

Advanced Fertility Management I

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Visit Pfizer’s new fertility website dedicated to cattle professionals on and discover the wealth of interactive information available.

An illustrated glossary of terms, cost calculators based on choice of treatment and herd fertility, challenging puzzle pictures, self-evaluation tests, news updates, educational videos, ‘ask the experts’ and other interactive sections are the main features of this new website. The website was launched in English in the autumn of 2008 and will be available in four other European languages (German, French, Italian, Spanish) by early 2009.


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The Pfizer Postpartum Metritis Consensus Conference Metritis (inflammation of the uterus) in dairy cattle is largely under-diagnosed. Cows with clinical signs are merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The microscopic tissue changes associated with postpartum metritis – and its impact on fertility – are much more important than previously thought. This was one of the main findings presented at the Pfizer Postpartum Metritis Consensus Conference held in Paris in 2007. This highlights ts the importance of detecting and treating these cases early, by screening fresh cows for clinical signs and by treating them promptly and appropriately. e A group of European veterinary practitioners and experts with an interest in bovine fertility met in Paris in order to exchange research findings and clinical experience, and to find common ground in the field of postpartum metritis in cattle. This “consensuss conference” led to a number of practical recommendations, summarised in the following pages. The financial impact of metritis was also discussed, not only in terms of treatment costs but also in terms of the loss of milk not produced or discarded. Finally, the recommendations give practical tips on how to integrate new routines into existing practice.

Geert Opsomer (Belgium)

Sylvie Chastant-Maillard (France)

Henri Seegers (France)

Wolfgang Heuwieser (Germany)

Martin Sheldon (UK)

Alfonso Monge Vega (Spain)

Marion Tischer (Germany)


Mark Burnell (UK)


Experts at the 2007 Metritis Consensus Conference:

Freshly calved cows should be monitored closely for signs of metritis and other reproductive disorders that may have an impact on future fertility – and production!


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Metritis: a fresh cow problem Metritis is an inflammation of the uterus, usually due to infection, occurring within 21 days (and usually within the first ten days) after calving. It is characterised by the following signs: an enlarged uterus, fetid vaginal discharge and off-white pus. Infections can range in severity from unapparent to life-threatening toxaemia.

Clinical metritis: from mild to fatal Grade 1

Grade 2 (puerperal metritis)

Grade 3 (toxaemic metritis)

• abnormally enlarged uterus

As Grade 1, but also:

As Grade 2, but also:

• pus-like vaginal discharge

• a foul-smelling, watery, red-brown vaginal discharge • decreased milk yield, dullness

• toxaemia (inappetence, cold extremities, depression and/or collapse)

• fever >39.5 °C

• this grade carries a poor prognosis

• no other symptoms • within 21 days after calving (mainly < 10-14 days)

Endometritis: after 21 days or more Endometritis is an inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus, occurring 21 days or more after calving. Contrary to metritis, enlargement of the uterus is not a typical feature in endometritis. High production, low fertility o Both metritis and endometritis are increasingly common conditions (herd prevalence of 15 to 20%), and seem to be linked to the level of milk production.

Bu rne ll

A foul-smelling, dark coloured vaginal discharge within the first weeks after calving is a typical sign of grade 2 clinical metritis (puerperal metritis]. Usually, the cow will also have a fever, a decreased appetite and a drop in milk production.



ar k

Fever (>39.5°C) in the freshly calved cow is often the first indicator of disease, and these cows should be monitored closely and treated as necessary.


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Metritis, more common than you think Worldwide, calving rates to first service are reported to have declined from 60% to 40% over the past 20 years. Although this decrease is multifactorial, the presence of metritis certainly contributes to a loss of fertility. Affected cows should therefore be monitored carefully and checked regularly until pregnancy or culling. TH /C



Consequences of metritis • Ovarian deregulation, leading to an increased calving interval • Reduced pregnancy rates (higher risk of culling)


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• Reduced feed uptake: drop in milk yield, increased risk of metabolic disease (abomasal displacement, ketosis)


• Increased stress and loss of job satisfaction for the farmer

Treat promptly for best results Early diagnosis ensures a more rapid recovery of the general condition, which benefits both animal welfare and milk production. The management of cows with uterine health problems should therefore be based on a preventive approach rather than a disappointing curative one.

In order to check if the milk yield of a fresh cow is dropping (a good indicator of disease), e), measure it – and record it!

Prevention is key

Prevention is based on good management during the transition period, including optimal feed intake and quality.

Metritis is a multifactorial disease linked to impaired immune function of the cow around calving. Strict management programmes need to be followed in the transition period, with particular attention to nutrition, housing, hygiene and cow comfort. Prevention is also based on the early detection and accurate treatment of problem cows in the period shortly after calving.

Preventive measures: • Nutrition during dry period and transition: dry matter intake, energy content, phosphorus/calcium balance, DCAB, trace elements • Body size and condition at calving: a sufficient body development of heifers and a stable, lean body condition score during the dry period (BCS ≤3.5) may help limit difficult calvings. • Good calving practice and optimal hygiene and comfort of the calving area V

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Screening fresh cows Systematic checks of all fresh cows are necessary since only a quarter of cows with metritis will have a vaginal discharge. Screening should not be limited to “at risk” animals, as animals which have calved normally may also develop metritis.

“Systematic screening by taking the rectal temperature will identify four times more affected cows than with observation alone.” Screen all and treat affected cows Especially on farms with a history of metritis at herd level, all fresh cows should be screened systematically, and all affected cows – and only those! – should be treated. This selective approach also respects the principles of the prudent use of antibiotics. Systematic medical treatment without the prior identification of affected cows is of no economic benefit. Well worth the time and effort! Although systematic screening requires a certain amount of time (taking temperatures of all fresh cows) and resources (it is likely to increase the number of treatments), fresh cow examinations can be planned. Furthermore, cows identified early by screening are less severely affected than those detected following a deterioration in their general condition, and require less aftercare. In the absence of screening, the ‘unexpected’ workload will be higher – as will the costs and risk of culling. Room for improvement

Identifying fresh cows improves the chances of spotting them in the herd.

1 Heuwieser et al, 2007

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nd 90% A survey1 in Germany of both large and medium-sized dairy farms showed that while around of farms had a designated maternity pen, only 21.5% had a special group or pen for fresh cows. Fresh cows were checked once a day in nearly two-thirds of farms, but “only if needed” in 28%. On the farms that “only checked as needed”, there were more cows with fever and ketosis, confirming that less frequent checking will overlook sick cows.


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Identifying the cows that need treatment By monitoring body temperature and using fever as a treatment criterion, substantial amounts of antibiotics can be saved since only sick cows are treated. • Identification (“flagging up”) of fresh cows • Regular Monitoring of Rectal Temperatures (Rectal temperatures over 39.5° C provide a useful early warning of postpartum problems.) • Monitoring Milk Yield • Regular Examinations of vaginal mucus Treatment protocol All sick cows with metritis should be treated as appropriate. Discuss optimal fresh cow treatment adapted to your herd with your veterinarian. Treatment of different grades of metritis are discussed further in the following pages. Detect early and save money If clinical metritis is detected too late or by chance and severe symptoms (loss of appetite, toxaemia) have already appeared, this will generate even higher costs in terms of veterinary visits and drugs, a drop in milk yield and an increased risk of culling. It is more economical to detect and treat clinical metritis cows at an early stage of disease (as soon as signs are observed), before they turn into “problem cows”. T


LB ch

It is easier to monitor recently calved cows in a separate fresh cow group than trying to spot them among the others in the herd.


/Ve tCon su


The antibiotics used for the systemic treatment of metritis should be effective against the bacteria present on the individual farm. However, the need to discard milk (or not) should also be taken into account when calculating the cost of treatment.

s Ti ion r a ©M


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A calf every year

In terms of farm economics, the ideal is still to have every cow produce a calf every year.

Be successful, think ahead Question: You want to get all of your cows in calf in the coming weeks. How do you do that? Answer: A cow will conceive if her uterus is healthy and her nutrition, energy status and health are good. Then she needs to be inseminated with fertile semen at the right time and in the right way.

Easier said than done Getting cows into calf sounds easy, but fertility is still a problem on many farms. First, there is the critical importance of nutrition and cow health around the time of calving and in the first month of lactation. Getting these two factors right is the biggest management challenge facing nearly every dairy farm. Second, getting cows into calf, usually by insemination, is a painstaking task that demands full commitment, care and skill. Care costs

time, and time is precious. Skills can be acquired by training. Skill, care, commitment and motivation all benefit if the results of what you are doing are immediately apparent. This calls for well-defined measuring points which tell you immediately how things are going (process indicators), despite it taking at least a month after insemination before you know for sure if the cow is in calf.


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Fertiltity Pfizer  
Fertiltity Pfizer  

An edition of Fertiltiy for Pfizer