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A review of some factors affecting the expression of libido in beef cattle, and individual bull and herd fertility

By J. C. Petherick

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This paper examines some of the factors that affect the expression of libido in beef cattle, focusing on the male and the free-ranging situation. The ways in which bull libido is assessed and the relationship between libido test results and fertility are discussed. Genetics play a role in determining libido, but there are many environmental factors affecting its expression, and a number of these factors influence sexual activity in both tests of libido and paddock mating. Herd fertility is multi-factorial and, consequently, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the relationship between libido and fertility. Multiple males increase the expression of libido, but it is uncertain whether this translates into improvements in herd fertility. However, there are consequences for individual bull fertility, as there is ample evidence of inherent differences between bulls. Male:female ratios appear to have minor effects on libido and fertility. Anecdotal evidence indicates that multiple matings with the same or different bulls may reduce the duration of oestrus. Social relationships between bulls can affect the expression of libido, with subordinate bulls being inhibited by the presence of dominant bulls. There is evidence that dominant bulls may achieve more matings at pasture, but this is not necessarily shown in their fertility. Older bulls show greater expression of libido in tests and appear more efficient in serving, although these changes may reflect greater sexual experience. Provided bulls are sexually mature and physically able to mate, age per se appears not to affect fertility, but age interacts with dominance, which can influence fertility. There is evidence of breed differences in expression of libido, but this appears not to be demonstrated in fertility. There is anecdotal evidence that bulls and females prefer to mate with similar genotypes/phenotypes with implications for fertility. Limited research on thermal and nutritional effects indicate some adverse consequences for libido of climatic extremes for unadapted bulls and of over-feeding, but not under-feeding. Limited research has investigated the effects on libido and fertility of multiple stressors associated with relocation; relocation to dramatically different environments has long-lasting detrimental consequences for fertility. Too few studies have been conducted to draw conclusions about the effects of topography and herd dispersion on libido and fertility. Temperament is likely to affect the expression of libido when animals are put into new situations, but this has not been critically researched. In the light of this review, the implications for managing cattle to optimise fertility are discussed and suggestions made as to areas where further research is needed.

Date 2005
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 90
Issue 3/4
Pages 185-205
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2004.08.021
Author Address Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, P.O. Box 6014, N. Rockhampton, Queensland 4702, Australia.carol.petherick@dpi.qld.gov.au
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Age
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal genetics
  4. Animal nutrition
  5. Animal reproduction
  6. Bulls
  7. Cattle
  8. Climate
  9. Environment
  10. Fertility.
  11. Genetics
  12. Herds
  13. Libido
  14. Mammals
  15. Mating
  16. Meat animals
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Reviews
  19. sex ratio
  20. Sexual behavior
  21. sexuality
  22. Sexual practices
  23. temperament
  24. topography
  1. peer-reviewed