Synchronized ovulation for first insemination improves reproductive performance and reduces cost per pregnancy in dairy heifers

T. V. Silva, F. S. Lima, W. W. Thatcher, J. E.P. Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objectives were to evaluate the effects of synchronizing estrus and ovulation to implement a timed artificial insemination (AI) at first insemination on reproductive performance and cost per pregnancy in dairy heifers. Six hundred eleven Holsteins heifers at approximately 400 d of age from 3 farms were enrolled in the study. Six days before moving to the breeding pens, heifers were allocated randomly to AI after detected estrus from study d 0 to 84 (CON, n=306), or to timed AI for first AI followed by detected estrus for the remainder of the 84-d study (TAI, n=305). Heifers receiving TAI were enrolled in the 5-d timed AI protocol on study d -6 (d -6, GnRH and a progesterone insert; d -1, PGF and insert removal; d 0, PGF; d 2, GnRH + AI), and they were allowed to be bred the day before scheduled timed AI if detected in estrus. Starting on study d 0, estrus was detected daily. Heifers in estrus were inseminated on the same morning as detected estrus. Control heifers not inseminated by study d 7 received PGF and this treatment was repeated every 2 wk until AI. The study lasted 84 d to allow a period of breeding equivalent to four 21-d estrous cycles. A herd budget accounting for inputs for both treatments was created to determine the cost per pregnancy. Sensitivity analysis compared economic differences between the 2 treatments under different input scenarios when detection of estrus after the first AI varied from 50 to 80%. Interval to first AI was 8 d shorter for TAI than for CON. Pregnancy at first AI did not differ between treatments (CON=58.3 vs. TAI=62.8%). In contrast, TAI increased pregnancy per AI (P/AI) compared with CON in heifers inseminated with sex-sorted semen (CON=31.6 vs. TAI=54.8%). The 21-d cycle insemination rate was greater for TAI (91.4%) than for CON (82.4%), even when evaluated after the first 21 d in the study (CON=68.2 vs. TAI=77.1%). The increased insemination rate improved the 21-d cycle pregnancy rate from 47.9% in CON to 57.2% in TAI heifers. In fact, the hazard of pregnancy was 60% greater for TAI than CON. The increased pregnancy rate in TAI reduced the median days to pregnancy by 12 d (CON=2.0 vs. TAI=14.0) and increased the proportion of pregnant heifers by 6.3 percentage points by study d 84 (CON=85.2 vs. TAI=91.5%). The cost per pregnancy was $17.00 less for TAI than CON. The sensitivity analysis indicated that TAI was economically more advantageous to produce a pregnancy compared with CON. Only when insemination rate after the first 21 d of breeding was very high and P/AI was relatively low did the cost per pregnancy become similar for the 2 treatments. Collectively, inseminating all heifers within 2 d of breeding with the 5-d timed AI protocol maintains P/AI, improves pregnancy rate, and reduces cost per pregnancy compared with insemination after detected estrus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73889
Pages (from-to)7810-7822
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • 5-d timed artificial insemination
  • Dairy heifer
  • Economics of reproduction
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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