Contrasting effects of progesterone on fertility of dairy and beef cows. Academic Article uri icon


  • The role of progesterone in maintaining pregnancy is well known in the bovine. Subtle differences exist between dairy and beef cows because of differing concentrations of progesterone during recrudescence of postpartum estrous cycles, rate of follicular growth and maturation, proportions of 2- and 3-follicular wave cycles, and other effects on pregnancy outcomes per artificial insemination (P/AI). Because proportions of anovulatory cows before the onset of the artificial insemination (AI) period are greater and more variable in beef (usually ranging from 30 to 70%) than dairy (25%) cows, AI programs were developed to accommodate anovulatory and cycling beef cows enrolled therein. Incorporating a progestin as part of an AI program in beef cows improved P/AI by reducing the proportion of cows having premature luteal regression and short post-AI luteal phases. In both genotypes, prolonged dominant follicle growth in a reduced progesterone milieu resulted in increased (1) LH pulses, (2) preovulatory follicle diameter, and (3) concentrations of estradiol and a subsequently larger corpora lutea (CL). In contrast, the progesterone milieu during growth of the ovulatory follicle in an ovulation control program does not seem to affect subsequent P/AI in beef cows, whereas in dairy cows follicle development in an elevated compared with a low progesterone environment increases P/AI. Progesterone status in beef cows at the onset of ovulation synchronization is not related to P/AI in multiparous cows, whereas P/AI was suppressed in primiparous cows that began a timed AI program in a low-progesterone environment. In timed AI programs, elevated concentrations of progesterone just before PGF2 and reduced concentrations at AI are critical to maximizing subsequent P/AI in dairy cows, but seemingly much less important in beef cows. By inducing ancillary CL and increasing concentrations of progesterone, human chorionic gonadotropin may increase P/AI when administered to beef cows 7d after AI or at embryo transfer, and its success seems to depend on induction of ancillary CL, whereas in dairy cows increased fertility was detected in cows with multiple CL, human chorionic gonadotropin-enhanced progesterone from original CL, or both. Pregnancy losses after AI are less frequent in beef cows and are not associated with pre-AI progesterone or cycling status, whereas losses in dairy cows are inversely related to progesterone and adversely affected in anovular dairy cows. Genotype and nutritional management likely influence several physiological differences including circulating concentrations of progesterone and responses to supplemental progesterone.

published proceedings

  • J Dairy Sci

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Stevenson, J. S., & Lamb, G. C.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Stevenson, JS||Lamb, GC

publication date

  • July 2016