Dairy cattle, like any other type of cattle, will be considered infertile when they are neither completely sterile nor normally fertile. The causes of infertility in dairy cattle are a subject of interest, starting with the introduction of artificial insemination back in the 50s.
These causes, however, are numerous and might be complex. In most cases, they related to implantation, fertilization, ovulation, successful coitus, the onset of oestrus, the maturation and development of Graafian follicle, and the delivery of the cow’s foetus (and its membranes).
If anything interferes with these routines – including environmental changes, hormonal disturbances, congenital and hereditary factors, inadequate herd management, poor nutrition, and diseases – then the animal might become infertile.
Additionally, infertility in dairy cattle (as well as reproductive disorders) affects 10 to 30% of lactations – a problem that is common in developed countries located in the tropics.
Consider the following:
Some of the causes of infertility in dairy cattle include, but are not limited to:
– The improper timing of artificial insemination, such as breeding too late or too early
– Inseminating the cattle frequently based on the signs of the estrus
– Uterine infections
– Using improper insemination techniques
– Using semen that was damaged during handling, storage, or transportation
– Fetal or embryonic mortality
– Excessive weight loss
– Poor body condition
– Using improper palpation techniques while performing pregnancy exams
– Heat stress
– Inseminating the cows too late with regards to their ovulation
– Deficient crude protein
– Excessive intake of degradable protein
– Gross over-conditioning
– Subclinical uterine infection
– Trichomoniasis and vibriosis in natural breeding
– Viruses (including IBR, IPV, and BVD, among others)
– Toxicity (including endotoxins, ketone bodies, high BUN (blood urea nitrogen), and mycotoxins)
– Imbalance of carotene, phosphorous, calcium, and vitamins (A, D, and E)
– Hormonal imbalance, such as the intake of forages that are high in estrogen
– Use of sires with low breeding efficiency
– Improper use of hormones and drugs, which end up impacting the reproductive function
The best treatment for infertility in dairy cattle involves the use of appropriate drug therapy after the problem is identified in individual cows. However, if the problem has affected an entire herd, you need to investigate more, identify the causes of the problem, and rectifying it before it spreads further.
Some of these problems are historic, meaning that they will show up after a couple of months. For instance, a sudden dietary change might cause the cows to feed inadequately resulting in poor bulling activity and energy deficits.
Overall, the causes of infertility in dairy cattle are varied and might be as a result of a combination of factors. As long as you are able to identify these causes in time, correct them, and administer proper treatments, however, you can easily take care of the problem before it becomes endemic in your herd.