Innovative solutions for sustainable improvement of dairy cow fertility

PI: Francisco Peñagaricano


Peñagaricano is an assistant professor of animal and dairy sciences at UW–Madison. His research primarily focuses on development and application of methods to analyze the genetic architecture of economically relevant traits in livestock.

Intense selection for productive traits has negatively affected dairy cow fertility in the last half century. Poor fertility is leading to significant economic losses. Dairy farmers in Wisconsin have been heavily relying on the use of hormonal treatments such as ovulation synchronization protocols as a management strategy to mitigate poor reproductive performance. However, the need to reduce pharmacological interventions is a reality for the future of Wisconsin’s dairy community. There is a critical need to improve dairy cow fertility in an environmentally sustainable manner. One approach is focusing on estrous (or reproductive) behavior. This project will conduct extensive research into the estrous cycle with the end goal of delivering a novel genomic prediction tool. This tool can be used to identify, rank, and select cows with improved estrous expression. Selecting cows with increased estrous expression will help increase pregnancy rates without relying on hormonal interventions. Kent Weigel is collaborating on this research.