Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Using ultrasound to derive new reproductive traits in tropical beef breeds: implications for genetic evaluation

N. J. Corbet A B G , J. M. Allen C , A. R. Laing D , G. Fordyce A , M. R. McGowan E and B. M. Burns A F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The University of Queensland, Centre for Animal Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Central Queensland University, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Rockhampton, Qld 4701, Australia.

C Agricultural Business Research Institute, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

D Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ayr, Qld 4807, Australia.

E The University of Queensland, School of Veterinary Science, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

F Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rockhampton, Qld 4702, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email: n.corbet@cqu.edu.au

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16616
Submitted: 14 September 2016  Accepted: 11 February 2017   Published online: 30 March 2017

Abstract

Key components of female fertility in tropically adapted beef breeds are age at puberty and interval from calving to conception. Presence of an ovarian corpus luteum or stage of pregnancy were recorded using trans-rectal ultrasonography in 4649 heifers and 2925 first-lactation cows in seven herds of either Brahman, Droughtmaster or Santa Gertrudis tropical beef cattle breeds in northern Australia. The traits derived from a single ultrasonographic examination were incidence of corpus luteum at ~600 days of age in heifers, and weeks pregnant 5 weeks post-mating in heifers at ~2.5 years of age and in first-lactation cows at either 2.5 or 3.5 years of age. At 600 days of age, the bodyweight of heifers averaged 340 kg and 40% had a corpus luteum. At 2.5 years of age bodyweight of heifers averaged 452 kg and 80% were pregnant. First-lactation cows averaged 473 kg and 64% were pregnant. Considerable between-herd variation in traits reflected differences in climate and management at each site. However, estimates of heritability of incidence of corpus luteum at 600 days (0.18–0.32) and weeks pregnant in lactating cows (0.11–0.20) suggested that a significant proportion of the variation was due to additive gene action. Small to moderate genetic correlations with other economically important traits and the range in estimated breeding values indicate substantial opportunity for genetic improvement of the traits. The study provided evidence to accept the hypothesis that strategically timed ultrasound examinations can be adopted to derive useful traits for genetic evaluation.

Additional keywords: cattle, fertility, puberty.


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