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Theriogenology. 1979 Jul;12(1):3-11.

Concentrations of progesterone in milk as a monitor of early pregnancy diagnosis in dairy cows.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.


The objectives of the experiment were to evaluate the efficacy of using progesterone concentrations in milk and palpation per rectum on days 21 or 22 postbreeding to estimate pregnancy and evaluate management practices; and to investigate physiological occurrences leading to incorrect diagnosis of pregnancy when serial samples of milk were collected. Of particular interest were indications of early embyronic death and insemination of cows not in estrus. Milk samples were collected at the afternoon milking of days 0 or 1 (day 0 = day of estrus), 9 or 10, 21 or 22 and 27 or 28 following breeding in 200 lactating dairy cows. Tentative diagnosis of pregnancy was made based on concentrations of progesterone in milk on days 21 and 22 alone and on days 21 or 22 and 27 or 28. In addition all cows were palpated per rectum on days 21 or 22 postbreeding and a tentative pregnancy diagnosis was made. Pregnancy was confirmed by examination of the genital tract per rectum between 35 and 50 days after breeding. Values of 4 ng/ml or greater and/or the presence of a mature corpus luteum were considered positive signs of pregnancy. Progesterone in milk ranged from 0.1 to 18 ng/ml. On days 0 or 1, 9 or 10, 21 or 22 and 27 or 28 concentrations of progesterone in milk averaged 1.5 +/- 0.3, 11.1 +/- 0.5, 12.0 +/- 0.4 12.5 +/- 0.5 ng/ml for pregnant cows. Corresponding samples from nonpregnant cows averaged 1.2 +/- 0.2, 10.3 +/- 0.4, 3.0 +/- 0.4, 6.8 +/- 0.6 ng/ml, respectively. Ninety-six and 104 cows were classified as pregnant and nonpregnant on days 21 or 22 as compared to 78 and 118 cows diagnosed as pregnant and nonpregnant on days 21 or 22 and 27 or 28 combined. Pregnancy detection by progesterone in milk on days 21 or 22 with pregnancy determined via rectal palpation 35 to 50 days postbreeding was 77 and 100% accurate for positive and negative diagnosis, respectively. The percent agreement using progesterone in milk on days 21 or 22 and 27 or 28 combined was 95 and 100%, respectively, for positive and negative diagnosis. Diagnosis based on rectal palpation 21 or 22 days postbreeding was 63 92 (69%) and 76 88 (87%) for pregnant and nonpregnant cows, respectively. Ten of the 200 cows had progesterone concentratins in milk of > 4 ng/ml at the time of breeding. Six of these cows were pregnant from a previous insemination. The other four cows were nonpregnant and were inseminated during the luteal phase of the cycle. In conclusion, measurement of progesterone in milk is a useful tool in early detection of pregnant and nonpregnant cows and may be useful in detecting reproductive problems in a dairy herd. It will probably be most useful when used in combination with later pregnancy diagnosis per rectum .

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