Dairy herd improvement test-day data, including milk urea concentrations measured using infrared test method, were collected from 60 commercial Ontario Holstein dairy herds for a 13-mo period between December 1, 1995, and December 31, 1996. The objective of the study was to describe, at the cow and the group level, the relationship between DHI milk urea concentrations and reproductive performance in commercial dairy herds. When interpreted at the cow level, there was no association between milk urea and the risk for pregnancy from an insemination occurring within the 45-d period preceding test day. However, a negative curvilinear relationship existed between milk urea and the risk for pregnancy from a first, second, or third insemination event occurring within the 45-d period following test day, with the odds for pregnancy being highest when the milk urea on the test day preceding the insemination was either below 4.5 mmol/L or greater than 6.49 mmol/L, compared with a concentration between 4.5 and 6.49 mmol/L. When interpreted at the group level, there was no association between group mean milk urea for cows between 50 and 180 DIM, and the group conception rate for cows receiving a first, second, or third insemination event in the 45-d period either preceding or following test day. Thus, while DHI milk urea measurements may be useful as a management tool to improve the efficiency of production or reduce nitrogen excretion, through helping to optimize the efficiency of protein utilization, they may have limited utility as a monitoring or diagnostic tool for reproductive performance. The results of this study suggest that good fertility may be achieved across a broad range of milk urea concentrations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by grants from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In-kind support, technical assistance, and test-day data were provided by field staff, laboratory staff, and herd management specialists of the Ontario Dairy Herd Improvement Association. The authors would also like to gratefully acknowledge those producers who participated in this study. Finally, we would like to thank Shelley James for assisting with the electronic transfer of data, Paul Page for his patient tutoring in database development and manipulation, and Mohammed Shou-kri and Victoria Edge for their statistical advice.
- Dairy herds
- Milk urea testing