The objective of this study was to estimate breeding values (EBV) and genetic and phenotypic trends for female fertility traits derived from artificial insemination (AI) records. Data were collected from automated milk recording systems: 64464 records from 18 South African (SA) Holstein herds. Breeding values were estimated for heifer traits, i.e., age at first service (AFS), age at first calving (AFC), number of services per conception (SPCh); and for cow traits, i.e., calving to first service (CFS), number of days open (DO), number of services per conception (SPC), first service within 80 days post-partum (FS80d), and whether cows were confirmed pregnant within 100 days post-partum (PD100d) or within 200 days post-partum (PD200d) using THRGIBBSF90. Trends were estimated for the period 1984 to 2011. There was no clear trend on average breeding values for heifer traits. However, phenotypic trends for heifer traits showed a desirable downward trend, with a decrease of 0.14 and 0.13 months/year for AFS and AFC, respectively. Phenotypic trends for cow fertility traits appeared to increase at the rate 0.16 and 0.83 days/year for CFS and DO, respectively, with animals requiring 0.02 more services per year for SPC. The average EBV for binary traits FS80d, PD100d, and PD200d, showed no distinct trend. In general, there was no clear genetic and phenotypic trend for all traits defined. The trends that appeared to follow trait improvement could have been coincidental. Thus, efforts have to be made towards the improvement of heifer and cow fertility traits explored in this study.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher