Relationship of Somatic Cell Score with Fertility Measures

R. H. Miller,* J. S. Clay,† and H. D. Norman*,1
*Animal Improvement Programs, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350 †Dairy Records Management Systems, Raleigh, NC 27603-3435

ABSTRACT Dairy Herd Improvement data from 284,450 cows in 37 states were used to examine the relationship of test-day somatic cell score, herd, calving year, parity, lactation stage, and calving ease score with fertility measures (rate of nonreturn to estrus by 70 d after first service, days to first service, and days open) for US Holsteins and Jerseys. Factors other than somatic cell score were examined to ensure that the estimation of the effect of somatic cell score was independent of other effects. Nonreturn rates were highest during April and May and lowest during June. Parity had a large effect on nonreturn rate, which was 6 to 7% higher for first parity than for sixth parity and later. Effect of lactation stage at first service on nonreturn rate was large; nonreturn rate increased by 8 to 13% from early to late lactation. Effect of calving ease score on nonreturn rate also was large: a 7% decline in nonreturn rate from score 1 to 5. For Holsteins, a small linear regression was found for nonreturn rate on preceding test-day somatic cell score, but this relationship was not significant for Jerseys. The magnitude of the effect of somatic cell score on fertility traits does not warrant postponing first service when somatic cell score is high.

(Key words: fertility, nonreturn rate, somatic cell score, calving ease score)

2001 J. Dairy Sci. 84:2543-2548

© 2001, by the American Dairy Science Association. All rights reserved.