Early pregnancy diagnosis and embryo/fetus mortality in cattle



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas A&M University


Pregnancy diagnosis by transrectal ultrasonography (using a 5 MHZ linear probe) presented the maximum sensitivity and negative predictive values at day 26 and day 29 after estrus in heifers and cows, respectively. Palpation per rectum using the fetal membrane slip for pregnancy diagnosis did not increase embryo/fetus mortality when compared with a positive control group of non-palpated females. The use of a controlled randomized block design was a useful approach to study this problem. Blocking for category and number of embryos allowed us to remove these confounding factors. Factors that affected pregnancy loss during the first four months of pregnancy were: period of pregnancy, age of the animal, number of previous lactations and number of embryos. Pregnancy loss was higher during the embryonic than fetal periods. Spontaneous embryo/fetal mortality increased with the age of the animal and lactation number. The risk of spontaneous embryo/fetus mortality was higher in twin than in single pregnancies. Two types of embryo/fetus mortality were noted: Type I and Type II. Type I was characterized by presence of positive fetal membrane slip by palpation per rectum, signs of degeneration by transrectal ultrasonography and persistence of a functional corpus luteum. The uterus took approximately 3 weeks to be noted clean by transrectal ultrasonography and the animals showed estrus one month after the conceptus was diagnosed dead. Type II was characterized by absence of positive signs of pregnancy by palpation per rectum, absence of signs of degeneration by transrectal ultrasonography and absence of a functional corpus luteum. Pregnancy loss in nuclear transfer derived embryos was higher compared to in vivo derived embryos produced by artificial insemination. Pregnancy loss occurred mainly during the transition from the embryonic to the fetal period. Embryo/fetus mortality detected was Type I. Progesterone produced by the corpus luteum was noted at pregnancy levels for approximately two weeks after embryo/fetus death. Protein B, a hormonal placental marker, was maintained at pregnancy levels for approximately 3 weeks after embryo/fetus death. No differences in the levels of the two hormones were noted when comparing females with dead or live conceptuses.