A new European project, which started this year, focusses on improving reproductive performance in dairy cows. The name of the project is PROLIFIC – a Pluridisciplinary study for a RObust and sustainabLe Improvement of Fertility In Cows. Participating in this project are dairy farmers, DeLaval, CRV and Wageningen UR Livestock Research.
The aim of PROLIFIC is to unlock the potential for proactive herd management by providing the farmer with improved tools for on-farm reproductive monitoring and management. This will be achieved by a multidisciplinary approach involving genomics, genetics, nutrition and herd management, and by integrating existing and acquired knowledge into predictive models that will allow the development of innovative solutions for a robust and sustainable improvement of fertility in cows.
The undesirable environmental and welfare impacts of animal farming systems indicate a need to increase the sustainability of these systems. The sustainability of dairy cattle farming systems relies to a large extent on the ability of cows to maintain their reproductive performance while coping with the constraints imposed by environmental conditions and management practices. Genetic selection has been highly successful and it has resulted in modern dairy cows with very high milk yields, but there has been an accompanying reduction in fertility. This has created a situation in which farmers are losing control of a key component of sustainability in their dairy production system.
Therefore, reproductive performance is crucial to farm sustainability as it underpins cow productivity and longevity. At the herd level, good reproductive performance is essential for economic sustainability. At the individual level, it is a key factor that affects the cow’s health, welfare, and also the animal’s robustness.
For this project progesterone levels and other data will be collected from research herds belonging to the project partners, but also from commercial farms equipped with a Herd Navigator (DeLaval, FOSS) that measures progesterone in milk automatically on farms. The cows will be genotyped, and DNA from key sires will be sequenced and included in the ‘1000 bull genome’ project.Beginning of February this EU project started off with an interesting meeting with an enthusiastic group of participating farmers, and people from DeLaval, CRV and Wageningen UR Livestock Research. This meeting offered opportunities for a fast start of collecting large amounts of progesterone data.