Journal of dairy science

The creation and evaluation of a model predicting the probability of conception in seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy cows.

PMID 28477998


Reproductive performance in pasture-based production systems has a fundamentally important effect on economic efficiency. The individual factors affecting the probability of submission and conception are multifaceted and have been extensively researched. The present study analyzed some of these factors in relation to service-level probability of conception in seasonal-calving pasture-based dairy cows to develop a predictive model of conception. Data relating to 2,966 services from 737 cows on 2 research farms were used for model development and data from 9 commercial dairy farms were used for model testing, comprising 4,212 services from 1,471 cows. The data spanned a 15-yr period and originated from seasonal-calving pasture-based dairy herds in Ireland. The calving season for the study herds extended from January to June, with peak calving in February and March. A base mixed-effects logistic regression model was created using a stepwise model-building strategy and incorporated parity, days in milk, interservice interval, calving difficulty, and predicted transmitting abilities for calving interval and milk production traits. To attempt to further improve the predictive capability of the model, the addition of effects that were not statistically significant was considered, resulting in a final model composed of the base model with the inclusion of BCS at service. The models' predictions were evaluated using discrimination to measure their ability to correctly classify positive and negative cases. Precision, recall, F-score, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) were calculated. Calibration tests measured the accuracy of the predicted probabilities. These included tests of overall goodness-of-fit, bias, and calibration error. Both models performed better than using the population average probability of conception. Neither of the models showed high levels of discrimination (base model AUC 0.61, final model AUC 0.62), possibly because of the narrow central range of conception rates in the study herds. The final model was found to reliably predict the probability of conception without bias when evaluated against the full external data set, with a mean absolute calibration error of 2.4%. The chosen model could be used to support a farmer's decision-making and in stochastic simulation of fertility in seasonal-calving pasture-based dairy cows.