The production of milk from the dairy cow is dependent on getting the cow in calf,maintaining the pregnancy and obtaining trouble-free parturition of the foetus. The success of this process relies on the fertility of the individual cow. There are many different measures of fertility, e.g., non-return rates after artificial insemination (AI), number of days not pregnantand calving interval (Butler et al, 1989), however, conception rate is a measure that can beused internationally. Conception rate is defined as the percentage of cows which hold toservice, with first service often used as the benchmark. A figure of 65% conception to firstservice is regarded as a very good figure (Blowey, 1999), however, conception rates havefallen well below this figure, as seen in Fig. 1.
Diskin et al (2006) estimate the reproductive performances of British-Friesians in 1980 compared to thoseof Holstein-Friesians in 2006.
This phenomenon of low conception rates to first service is being experienced world-wide inhigh yielding dairy cattle and has occurred in the last 10 to 15 years (Blowey, 1999). Irelandis by no means unique in this respect and has also experienced a decline in reproductive performance in the dairy herd since the mid seventies, not only is this characterised by lowconception rates but also high rates of embryonic mortality (Moore et al, 2006). This declinehas been linked with the increased proportion of North American Holstein Friesian genetics in3