Relationship between birth weight and growth parameters of dairy calves and their fertility and milk production in later life: a retrospective longitudinal study

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J. L. J. Wuyts

O. B. Pascottini

J. L. M. R. Leroy

Published Apr 30, 2021


Milk production and fertility of adult dairy cows are partly determined by the environment during fetal and early postnatal development. Especially the nutritional conditions during this period can lead to ‘metabolic programming’ through epigenetic regulation. The aim of this study was to monitor 199 female Holstein-Friesian calves on a single dairy farm between 2012 and 2020 and to relate their birth weight and growth in different developmental periods to fertility as nulliparous heifers and milk production and fertility as primiparous cows. It has been shown that calves with a higher birth weight maintain a higher body weight until the moment of first parturition. For every kilogram a heifer weighed heavier at the time of first parturition, she produced 6.1 liters of milk extra during the first 305 days of lactation. The moment of first insemination in the primiparous cows could also be significantly correlated with several growth parameters. The results of this retrospective longitudinal study confirm the relationship between the performance of dairy cows in later life and multiple growth parameters in the early development of dairy calves.

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