2014 (1) 03-13

Maternal and environmental factors associated with the birth weight of Holstein calves
E. Depreester, M. M. Kamal, M. Van Eetvelde, M. Hostens, G. Opsomer

The objective of the present study was to determine factors that are associated with the birth size ofHolstein calves. A retrospective cross-sectional study was set up, and data of 1594 calf births from fourdairy herds in Belgium and one in Germany were analyzed. Of the variables offered to the offspringbirth weight (BW) model in heifers, calf gender, gestation length, season of calving, age at calving andheart girth, wither height and diagonal length of the dam were retained as significant. The BW wassignificantly lower in heifers that calved at a very old age (25.5 to 37.3 months) (P < 0.001). Calvesborn out of young (20.3 to < 22 months) and old (23.3 to 25.5 months) heifers were lighter than calvesborn out of intermediately aged (22 to < 23.5 months) heifers. Of the variables offered to the offspringBW model in cows, calf gender, season of calving, gestation length, parity, length of the dry periodand the milk production during gestation (MGEST) were significant. For cows having the same heartgirth, the BW of the calves was 0.97 and 1.11 kg higher in cows with low (1,400 to < 5,400 kg) andhigh (6,500 to < 7,200) MGEST, respectively, than in cows with very high MGEST (7,200 to 11,600kg) (P < 0.05). The negative effects of young and older age at calving in heifers and of very highmilk production levels during gestation in cows on the BW of their calves, provide a basis for furtherresearch in nutritional and managerial interventions to improve the long-term health and productivityof the offspring.

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