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Mathematical characterization of the milk progesterone profile as a leg up to individualized monitoring of reproduction status in dairy cows

Adriaens, Ines, Huybrechts, Tjebbe, Geerinckx, Katleen, Daems, Devin, Lammertyn, Jeroen, De Ketelaere, Bart, Saeys, Wouter, Aernouts, Ben
Theriogenology 2017 v.103 pp. 44-51
corpus luteum, dairy cows, dairy farming, estrus, estrus detection, farmers, growth curves, guidelines, heat, mathematical models, milk, monitoring, pregnancy, profitability, progesterone, reproductive performance, temperature
Reproductive performance is an important factor affecting the profitability of dairy farms. Optimal fertility results are often confined by the time-consuming nature of classical heat detection, the fact that high-producing dairy cows show estrous symptoms shorter and less clearly, and the occurrence of ovarian problems. Today's commercially available solutions for automatic estrus detection include monitoring of activity, temperature and progesterone. The latter has the advantage that, besides estrus, it also allows to detect pregnancy and ovarian problems. Due to the large variation in progesterone profiles, even between cycles within the same cow, the use of general thresholds is suboptimal. To this end, an intelligent and individual interpretation of the progesterone measurements is required. Therefore, an alternative solution is proposed, which takes individual and complete cycle progesterone profiles into account for reproduction monitoring. In this way, profile characteristics can be translated into specific attentions for the farmers, based on individual rather than general guidelines. To enable the use of the profile and cycle characteristics, an appropriate model to describe the milk progesterone profile was developed. The proposed model describes the basal adrenal progesterone production and the growing and regressing cyclic corpus luteum. To identify the most appropriate way to describe the increasing and decreasing part of each cycle, three mathematical candidate functions were evaluated on the increasing and decreasing parts of the progesterone cycle separately: the Hill function, the logistic growth curve and the Gompertz growth curve. These functions differ in the way they describe the sigmoidal shape of each profile. The increasing and decreasing parts of the P4 cycles were described best by the model based on respectively the Hill and Gompertz function. Combining these two functions, a full mathematical model to characterize the progesterone cycle was obtained. It was shown that this approach retains the flexibility to deal with both varying baseline and luteal progesterone values, as well as prolonged or delayed cycles.