These targets will not be achieved using current knowledge and technologies alone. A biological breakthrough is required.
The aim of this project is to accelerate genetic gain in fertility and manipulate the biology that underpins cow fertility.
The project has two major workstreams
Improved fertility genotypes
The aim is to accelerate gains in genetic fertility with novel phenotypes and improved biomarkers for phenotypic fertility.
This will be achieved by initially using existing knowledge and industry databases. Later, “information herds” may be established to measure novel and detailed fertility phenotypes in a prospective manner.
In addition, this genetic theme will be linked closely to findings derived from the animal model in the ‘enhanced biological function’ workstream (below). Not only will the accuracy of the current traits used to select for fertility be tested, the opportunity to incorporate novel and early phenotypic predictors of genetic fertility will be investigated.
Enhanced biological function
The aim is essentially to unravel the underlying biology that differentiates genetically fertile from infertile cows.
The focus will be on determining whether the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis during postpartum can be improved through managerial manipulations; whether embryo survival can be increased by managerial manipulation; and whether novel markers of desirable phenotypes for fertility can be discovered.
An animal model with extreme diversity in genetic fertility will be established. A 'low' vs 'high' fertility herd will be established from heifers born to carefully selected contract matings in spring 2014. The final herd will be 200 cows in each fertility group.
The animals will be monitored from just after birth through growth, puberty, first pregnancy and to, at least, first calving to understand phenotypes associated with fertility.
Dr Chris Burke