Evolutionary biology provides reasons for why the intensive selection for milk production reduces reproductive success rates. There is considerable exploitable genetic variation in reproductive performance in both dairy and beef cattle, and examination of national genetic trends demonstrates that genetic gain for both reproductive performance and milk production is possible in a well-structured breeding program. Reproductive failure is often postulated to be a consequence of the greater negative energy balance associated with the genetic selection for increased milk production. However, experimental results indicate that the majority of the decline in reproductive performance cannot be attributed to early lactation energy balance, per se; reproductive success will, therefore, not be greatly improved by nutritional interventions aimed at reducing the extent of negative energy balance. Modeling can aid in better pinpointing the key physiological components governing reproductive success and, also, the impact of individual improvements on overall fertility, helping to prioritize variables for inclusion in breeding programs.

Keyword(s): beefdairygeneticsnutritionreproduction

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