Genomics & dairy cow fertility

Selection for higher milk production in United States dairy cattle has been very successful during the past 50 years, however today’s lactating dairy cows exhibit a high incidence of subfertility and infertility with a national pregnancy rate of only 15%.  An integrated approach to improve fertility of dairy cattle will be conducted with goal of improving fertility of dairy cattle using translational genomics.

Our research hypothesis is that lactating cow fertility can be increased through genetic selection for maternal fertility in heifers and use of sires with high daughter pregnancy rate (DPR), resulting in a significant, sustainable, and profitable increase in overall herd fertility.

Each objective will involve a team of scientists working in animal reproduction, genomics, breeding, and extension toward a common goal. The expected outcome and impact is increased dairy farm profitability and increased international competitiveness of the US dairy industry.


  1. Identify genomic loci associated with fertility in dairy heifers and cows.
  2. Identify functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with daughter pregnancy rate (DPR) and early embryo development.
  3. Evaluate the efficiency and profitability of increasing fertility in dairy cattle using genetic selection tools.
  4. Engage in technology transfer regarding novel approaches for improving fertility using genetic selection tools to dairy farmers, dairy farm personnel and their advisors in English and Spanish using DAIReXNET and extension road shows.

AFRI Dairy Cow Fertility Website

This link will take you to a Texas A&M website.

DAIReXNET articles

  1. Dalton, J.C., and D.A. Moore. Genomic selection has changed dairy sire selection. DAIReXNET. Published Oct 17, 2018.Spanish translation: Dalton, J.C., D.A. Moore, and M. Chahine. 2019. La selección genómica ha cambiado la manera de seleccionar los toros en la ganadería lechera.
  2. Dalton, J.C., and D.A. Moore. The big picture: Genomics, humans, and animals. DAIReXNET. Published Oct 3, 2018. Spanish translationDalton, J.C., D.A. Moore, and M. Chahine. 2019. Genómica en humanos y animales: Un vasto panorama.

Dairy cow genomics: Uses and role of the veterinarian

On October 3, 2015, a day-long program was delivered on the current and future use of genomics in dairy cattle and how the dairy cattle veterinarian can help their clients utilize this information.  This material was presented at the Academy of Dairy Veterinary Consultants Fall Meeting in Sacramento, CA: Discussion Notes.

Dairy genomics research update: New aspects of selection for health and fertility

This article was written by Dale Moore and Holly Neibergs for Progressive Dairyman.  It was published in Issue 14, August 25, 2017, Page 44-45.

Dairy genomics workshop recordings

In 2014, 2016 and 2018 traveling workshops were conducted discussing genomics of fertility.  They were recorded and the best quality ones are presented.

Finding more value with genomic testing

Presented by Dr. Albert De Vries, University of Florida.
Dr. De Vries discusses how to find the value in genomic testing – and which situations it may be valuable in – as well as how some reproductive program decisions can affect profitability. Watch the video on YouTube.

Genomics and the pre-weaned dairy calf

A factsheet and our December 2017 Spotlight created by Dale Moore, Joe Dalton, Albert DeVries.

Genetic and Genomics: An Introduction

An article published in print and online in The Progressive Dairyman, Issue 17, October 19, 2016, Page 66 by S. Menegatti Zoca, B. Glaze, D.A. Moore, and J. C. Dalton.

Genetic Selection in Dairy Cattle – A Double-Edged Sword by Dr. D.A. Moore

Think about the progress that has been made using AI in dairy cattle.  Milk production per cow per year has increased from 9,700 lbs in 1970 to over 22,000 lbs.  We have improved milk and milk component yield, used ‘low somatic cell count’ bulls, shifted foot and leg conformation and improved the udder.  But as production has increased, fertility has declined, overall, in dairy cattle.  Is there a genetic component?

Looking For Greater Economic Value From Genomic Testing

This article was published online in Progressive Dairyman on February 22, 2019 by Albert De Vries, Joe Dalton and Dale Moore.

Western Dairy Management Conference in Reno, NV (February 28-March 2, 2017)

Innovative Breeding Schemes: Best Combinations of Genomics, Semen Type, and Culling by Albert De Vries, University of Florida


Improved reproductive performance of dairy cattle compared to two decades ago and the use of sexed semen are now leading to an abundant supply of replacement heifers in the USA. This large supply of heifers has dairy farmers wondering if they should raise fewer heifers. For many US farmers this is a paradigm shift. One of the objectives of our USDA funded project is to assist dairy farmers with decisions on how many and which heifers to raise. Farmers can adopt many potential strategies. Strategies include some combinations of genomic testing, use of sexed semen, in-vitro produced embryos and embryo transfer, beef semen, and culling. Our project has resulted in a tool that calculates profitable strategies for individual farms. Constraints may be imposed, such as raising enough dairy heifers to replace culled cows, or limiting the use of sexed semen. The tool was developed in collaboration with stakeholders from the allied dairy community, who helped direct the user-interface, and inputs and outputs. Using general sensitivity analysis, we found, for example, that in herds with good reproduction, the most profitable strategy was a combination of genomic testing, beef semen, sexed semen, and conventional semen. More than the minimum number of required dairy heifer calves were produced to allow for some genetic selection among dairy calves. The tool has also been used with individual farmers to determine the value of genomic testing, which groups of dairy cattle should be inseminated with sexed semen, and the maximum price for in-vitro produced embryos. To help with the actual implementation of a selected strategy, we developed a second tool, which calculates insemination values for beef, sexed, and conventional semen for individual cattle. These economic values help prioritize heifers and cows for the three insemination options. Cull values are also calculated. These tools have been introduced to dairy farmers at workshops in multiple locations throughout the USA. Further discussions with the allied dairy community are underway to accelerate uptake and impact of both tools.





Lead Project Director (PD):

  • Thomas E. Spencer, Professor and Baxter Chair in the Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University.


  • John B. Cole,  Research Geneticist in Animal Improvement Programs, USDA-ARS Beltsville.
  • Joseph C. Dalton, Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Idaho.
  • Albert J. De Vries, Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida.
  • Peter J. Hansen, Distinguished Professor & L.E. “Red” Larson Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida.
  • Dale A. Moore, Director of Veterinary Medicine Extension in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University.
  • Holly Neibergs, Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University.


  • Mireille Chahine, Extension Dairy Specialist in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Idaho.

This work is supported by a grant from USDA NIFA AFRI Grant No. 2013-68004-20365 and the following universities: University of Florida, University of Idaho, University of Missouri, and Washington State University.