Pregnancy Rate or Conception Rate: Fertility Goals Decide What Tool to Use

Consider these questions.  

Do you need fewer days open?  

Do you want to make sure your cows become pregnant when bred? 

While they seem like simple questions to answer, how you answer impacts which reproduction tool you need to use, pregnancy rate or conception rate.  

Genetic selection in the dairy industry can be traced back to before people even knew what genetic selection was. There was a time in history where intense selection for production traits negatively impacted fertility in dairy cows. Thus, the resulting fertility challenge among producers led to significant innovation in the industry, and Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) was developed to evaluate fertility.  

Ways to Analyze Fertility  

DPR was introduced as a female fertility trait that measures pregnancy rate, so you can consider it your pregnancy rate indicator. While successfully used around the world, it is key to remember that pregnancy rate has external factors beyond genetic selection that impacts its potential. Bearing this in mind, it is important to know that DPR is not your only resource to gauge reproductive success in a herd. Cow Conception Rate (CCR) is also a tool that can be used to analyze fertility. Conception Rate illustrates the cow’s ability to conceive. Determining whether to use pregnancy rate or conception rate is not a one or the other decision as both are very correlated. 

Deciding which reproduction tool to focus on for your genetic selection depends entirely on how you view fertility and where you want to improve.  

Do you need fewer days open?  

Or do you want to make sure your cows become pregnant when bred? 

When to Use PR or CR? 

  • If you need to decrease the number of days open, you will want to consider your pregnancy rates and focus on DPR for genetic selection.  
  • To ensure your cows are fertile when you decide to breed them, you will want to pay closer attention to cow conception rate when making genetic selections.  

Genetic selection impacts your herd for years to come. Thus, your herd’s genetic progress is the result of the genetic selections you make. If you choose to ignore pregnancy or conception rates completely, you must then rely on the current herd’s fertility. You can put your herd at risk for negative short- and long-term genetic impacts by overlooking these two powerful reproduction tools. Do not overlook them because genetics will always impact fertility.  

Here are Five Ways to Maintain or Improve Fertility 

  1. Select the right genetics for fertility and your environment and management system. 
  1. Review best practices for A.I. with your teams, including semen handling, thermometer calibration and semen deposit location. 
  1. Promote attention to detail in synchronization programs with internal and external teams. 
  1. Focus on heat detection training if breeding is done by farm staff; otherwise, consider a professional technician service. 
  1. Utilize a custom index to weight and choose the appropriate traits that will help you reach your goals. 

Learn more about using pregnancy rate or conception rate as fertility tools by reading our article originally published in Progressive Dairy.  

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