Okay, so you might be asking why do I have a picture of a cow at the top of this post. Let me explain. Today I was catching up on my Reader backlog and I came across an article that I caught my eye. The article is about how rising infertility rates in our dairy cows is one of the biggest costs the industry faces.
According to the article published at Westernfarmpress.com the conception rate of an average herd in the 1980’s was 50%. That rate has fallen to about 30% in recent surveys. A 20% drop in conception rates in the last 30 years seems fairly dramatic to me and would certainly get me worrying, if I was a dairy farmer. The two main costs in raising dairy cows for milk production have historically been the labor and the feed (thanks Wikipedia!). Now it looks like they might have to add infertility costs to that list.
My first thoughts upon reading this article were what are the farmers doing to their herds that is resulting in this kind of wide reaching infertility? 30 years is a decent amount of time when measured in the lifespans of a dairy cow. If I had more time, and interest, I would certainly want to take a look at what kind of practices the industry has adopted in that time frame to see if some probably causes to this infertility problem could be sorted out.
I have a more holistic view on health and my first thought is that the dairy industry has inadvertently done something to its own herds that are reducing their fertility, or that the quoted 1980 rates were inflated in some manner. I would be very interested to see if they figure out the problem, and if was caused by their own methods to get the cows to produce more milk. The article mentions that the farmers(corporations) want to solve the issue through selective breeding, although I would bet that is just one option they will be pursuing.
As I finished the article, I was curious about human infertility rates have done in that same time frame. To that end I found a good analysis of just that question here. The study looked at the global trends in infertility prevalence since 1990 through the analysis of 277 separate health surveys. They found that infertility rates have remained relatively stable during the last 20 years for both primary infertility (failure to bear your first child) and secondary infertility (inability to have a second child). So even though infertility has become more talked about, and less of a taboo subject (its about time!), there is little evidence that the overall rates are increasing or decreasing. Whew!
I got a little off topic today, but I thought it was an interesting share. Hope you enjoyed it!