Increasing vitamin D levels to improve fertilization rates in cattle

Vanessa Peixoto De Souza, Jared Jensen, William Whitler, Charles T. Estill, Cecily V. Bishop

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    1 Scopus citations


    Recently, interest in supplementing vitamin D (Vit D) to improve aspects of health, mainly in human fertility, has emerged. Still, supplementation of Vit D above the minimum required levels has yet to be explored in cattle despite evidence for Vit D receptors in reproductive tissues. The objective of this study was to establish if a dose-response relationship exists between Vit D exposure and success of in vitro production (IVP) of embryos and, if acute supplementation of Vit D improves pregnancy rates during timed artificial insemination (TAI) of dairy cows. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) were obtained from ovaries acquired from a local abattoir and cultured in five different IVP treatments from three separate collections (Control, 50, 100, 150, and 200 ng/mL of 1,25(OH)2D3; n = 20-30 COCs/group). In Experiment 2, dairy breed cows (n = 100) were synchronized for TAI with the PresynchOvsynch protocol. Cows received 150,000 IU of Vit D (n = 48) or castor oil as control (n = 53) along with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) 24 h before TAI. Serum samples were collected before and 24 h after treatment. A small cohort of cows (n = 4) received the same treatments in two separate cycles and follicular fluid (FF) was collected after 24 h for calcidiol (25OHD) analyses. Increased concentrations of Vit D resulted in decreased rates of maturation of COC (150 and 200 ng/mL vs. control and 50 ng/mL; P = 0.01). Supplementation with 50 ng/mL resulted in greater numbers of early blastocyst and blastocyst stage embryos (P < 0.009). Pregnancy at first breeding did not differ (P = 0.13) between groups, but serum 25OHD increased in treated females after 24 h (P = 0.002). The FF 25OHD levels were reflective of serum levels, however, the observed increase in the treatment cycle (P = 0.04) was parallel to an overall increase in serum 25OHD during the entire second cycle, likely due to increased environmental sunlight exposure (March, control vs. May, treatment). A similar increase in the serum 25OHD in the lactating commercial herd maintained in covered housing was not observed, although experiments were conducted during a similar timeframe. This herd had levels of 25OHD near the low end of sufficiency according to National Research Council (NRC) guidelines. We conclude mild Vitamin D supplementation with concentrations at the higher end of NRC guidelines can improve maturation rates of recovered COCs. However, longer term supplementation may be needed to appreciate any benefits on fertility.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberskac168
    JournalJournal of animal science
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


    • Vitamin D
    • cattle
    • embryo7fertility
    • fertilization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Genetics
    • Animal Science and Zoology


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