Fertility and the transition dairy cow

J. R. Roche, C. R. Burke, M. A. Crookenden, A. Heiser, J. L. Loor, S. Meier, M. D. Mitchell, C. V.C. Phyn, S. A. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transition from pregnancy to lactation (i.e. the transition period) is a time of significant metabolic challenge, with a several-fold increase in a cow's requirement for energy, protein and minerals within days of calving. A successful transition involves the initiation and coordination of changes in multiple tissues that facilitate the provision of these nutrients to the cow and, more specifically, to the mammary gland, often at the considerable expense of other tissues. Failure to coordinate the necessary changes effectively results in transition period maladaptation, which can broadly be grouped into three categories: (1) negative energy balance and metabolic diseases associated with energy metabolism; (2) immune dysfunction and inflammation; and (3) metabolic diseases associated with mineral deficiency. Because reinitiation of ovarian activity, follicle recruitment, ovulation, fertilisation and, potentially, even maternal recognition of pregnancy and implantation occur against the backdrop of this metabolic and immunological disturbance in early lactation, the role of nutrition in ensuring a smooth transition between the pregnant and lactating state is important. In this paper we integrate recent research findings with previous knowledge of the interaction between transition cow metabolism and nutrition and reproductive outcomes, and offer new insights into key elements of successful cow management to avoid transition 'maladaptation' and improve pregnancy rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-100
Number of pages16
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


  • NSAIDs.
  • energy balance
  • exosomes
  • immunity
  • inflammation
  • metabolic disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Developmental Biology


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