Heifer Puberty and Fertility Project: Participation Overview

University of Missouri USDA Funded Heifer Puberty and Fertility Project Participation Overview

Project Goals 
Fertility is critically important to both commercial and seedstock breeders. This project aims to improve genetic/genomic predictions for puberty and fertility of heifers by collecting DNA samples and relevant phenotypes, specifically relating to pubertal status and date of conception within the breeding season. This project is funded by the USDA-NIFA Animal Reproduction Program. The project is recruiting 2,500 Hereford and 2,500 Red Angus heifers, to add to a data set of 6,000 Angus heifers.

Participation 
To inquire about participating in the project, please first contact one of the project coordinators by email or phone: 
  • Dr. Jared Decker  
    • Phone: 573-819-0837 
    • Email: DeckerJE@missouri.edu 
  • Dr. Jordan Thomas  
    • Phone: 573-289-9592 
    • Email: ThomasJor@missouri.edu
The following information will then need to be emailed to Helen Yampara-Iquise (yamparah@missouri.edu), who will oversee data management for the project: 
  • Name of farm/ranch 
  • Address of ranch/farm/working facilities 
  • Number of heifers to be developed in current breeding season (spring or fall) 
  • Name and contact information of herd veterinarian (Jordan Thomas will need to contact your veterinarian regarding standards for collection of prebreeding and pregnancy data)
Timeline
Pre-breeding Exam (60 to 30 days prior to start of the breeding season)
Must include records of: 
  • Farm Tag 
  • Heifer Registration Number 
  • Breed 
  • Sire Registration Number 
  • Birth Date 
  • Weight 
  • Reproductive Tract Score
  • Pelvic Height
  • Pelvic Width
Optional data that is not required but encouraged: 
  • Body Condition Score 
  • Hair Shedding Score 
  • Docility
Breeding Season
Participants will receive an Excel file for the heifers for which pre-breeding exam data was reported. In this file they will need to record: 
  • 1st AI Date (if applicable
  • 2nd AI Date (if applicable
  • AI Bull Registration Number(s) (if applicable
  • Estrus Synchronization Protocol (if applicable
  • Breeding Management (e.g. heat detection, timed AI
  • Estrous Response 
  • Natural Service Bull In Date 
  • Natural Service Bull Out Date 
  • Registration Numbers for Natural Service Bulls
Ultrasound Pregnancy Diagnosis
Pregnancy diagnosis must be performed via ultrasound to determine fetal age. Ultrasound must be performed within 90 days after the start of the breeding season. Participants will receive an Excel file for the heifers for which data was previously reported. In this file they will need to record: 
  • Exam Date 
  • Days Pregnant (i.e. Fetal Age) 
  • Yes/No AI Bred 
Optional data includes: 
  • Fetal Sex 
  • Body Condition Score
DNA samples may be collected at pre-breeding, breeding, or pregnancy exams. Blood cards will be provided, or TSUs can be provided if speed or simplicity is a limitation. Samples will be tested once all data, including pregnancy diagnosis, is submitted. 
Costs Project Covers
The project will pay for free genomic-enhanced EPDs for all enrolled heifers (total herd enrollment is required). There will be no cost for blood cards or TSUs or for the genomic analyses. 
Costs Participants Cover
Syringes, needles, scalpels, or TSU applicator are the participants’ responsibility. Veterinary costs associated with prebreeding exams and pregnancy diagnosis are also the participants’ responsibility. Note, however, that Jordan Thomas’ crew can travel to collect reproductive data for locations in the state of Missouri or for large out of state locations when feasible.

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