U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Published in Journal of Dairy Science 92:3517–3528 doi:10.3168/jds.2008-1768 © American Dairy Science Association, 2009. Used by permission.


Reproductive information since 1995 from the USDA national dairy database was used to calculate yearly Holstein and Jersey means for days to first breeding after calving (DFB), 70-d nonreturn rate, conception rate (CR), number of breedings per lactation (NB), interval between first and last breedings during the lactation, days to last breeding after calving (DLB), pregnancy rate (PR), calving interval (CI), and interval between consecutive breedings. Data were from nearly 20 million breedings during >8 million lactations of >5 million cows in >23,000 herds. Means were also calculated for some traits by parity and breeding number for both breeds and by geographical region and synchronization status for Holsteins. The DFB declined for Holsteins from 92 d in 1996 to 85 d in 2007; the trend in yearly differences was not as consistent for Jerseys. First- and all-breeding 70-d nonreturn rate declined 5 to 9 percentage units over time. First- and all-breeding CR declined 2 to 4 percentage units. The DFB were longer for later parities of Holsteins than for early parities. Second- and third-breeding CR were sometimes 1 to 2 percentage units above first-breeding CR for Holsteins but lower (1 to 7 percentage units) for Jerseys. The CR within breeding number declined across parities for both breeds. The NB increased by 0.3 to 0.4 breedings over time but remained constant (2.5 or 2.6 breedings) across parities for Holsteins and increased (from 2.2 to 2.4 breedings) for Jerseys. Holstein DFB were fewest in the Northwest (78 d) and greatest in the Mountain region (92 d). Regional CR was highest for the Northeast and Southwest (33%) and lowest for the Southeast (26%); NB was fewest for the Northeast (2.3) and greatest for the Southeast (2.7). Mean DLB was fewest for the Southwest (127 d) and greatest for the Mountain region (157 d); CI was shortest for the Southwest (406 d) and longest for the Mideast (434 d). Mean PR was highest for the Southwest (28.3%) and lowest for the Mideast and Southeast (22.2%). Use of timed artificial insemination following synchronized estrus appears to have reduced DFB, lowered CR, and increased NB while reducing DLB and CI. However, synchronized breeding was not a primary cause of Holstein regional differences for reproductive traits. Since 2002, phenotypic performance for CR, DLB, and CI as well as genetic merit for daughter PR have stopped their historical declines and started to improve.