Embryo loss can be a major cause of reproductive failure in both cows and heifers on dairy farms.

At this stage of the current spring-calving breeding season, over 90% of cows and 100% of heifers should ideally, already be served.

It is likely that there will be a number of repeats in the cows, but ideally the number of repeats should low and continue to become less as the weeks continue.

Embryo loss in cows or heifers that are believed to be in-calf can be a concern, especially as more often than not, it happens without warning.

This often results in a cow or heifer believed to be in-calf turning out not to be empty at the end of the breeding season.

Embryo loss

Replacement heifers should have the best genetics on-farm and should have the highest levels of fertility.

However, they can still easily lose a pregnancy if not managed correctly after breeding.

Research from Teagasc has determined that maintaining a high level of good nutrition in early pregnancy is critical in preventing early embryo loss in heifers.

The research trials, which looked at the impact of short-term intakes on embryo survival, found that maintaining energy or slightly increasing intakes improved embryo survival.

The research also determined that short-term reductions in intakes after breeding severely reduced embryo survival.


To decrease the number of potential embryo losses that may occur, it is important for heifers to remain on a highly nutritious diet and that dry matter (DM) intakes are not reduced.

The level of stress placed on the animals should also be kept to a minimum.

Grass growth rates are quite good at the moment, so feed availability or quality shouldn’t be an issue.

However, if it seems as if grass is getting tight on the heifer block, the introduction of high-quality feed in the form of silage is advised.